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‘Smokers, harm reduction be included in tobacco parleys’

By Our Correspondent
January 28, 2020

Islamabad : The Pakistan Alliance for Nicotine and Tobacco Harm Reduction (PANTHR) Friday called for inclusion of smokers and stakeholders (working on harm reduction) in consultations on tobacco control.

“We support ongoing efforts for tobacco control and strongly back a smoke-free Pakistan. However, we believe that the scope of consultations should be wider and inclusive,” said Kashif Farooqi, advocacy manager of PANTHR, an initiative aimed at promoting alternative solutions for smoking cessation, including harm reduction products (HRPs).

Farooqi said that in the tobacco control efforts in Pakistan, no members from the smokers’ community and those working on harm reduction are being engaged. He further said that smokers’ views have always been ignored in Pakistan. “As the main beneficiaries, smokers’ voices should be heard loud and clear.” He added that smoking cessation remains a missing link in Pakistan’s tobacco control efforts. “Successful quitting rate in Pakistan is less than 3%. If we really want to make Pakistan tobacco-free, we have to concentrate on cessation.” Farooqi said, tobacco control emphasis should shift from prevention to cessation. “Further, there is a need for separating harm reduction from the tobacco industry.”

Overwhelming evidence points towards HRPs as game changers for smokers trying to quit. Smoking rates have come down in countries where smokers started using HRPs, including the UK, Japan and Sweden. While remaining committed to and supporting tobacco control efforts in Pakistan, especially Article 14 of FCTC, the alliance serves as a platform for advocating and promoting the use of innovative alternatives such as safe nicotine delivery systems and harm reduction.

Farooqi added, “In UK, Japan, Sweden, and New Zealand, harm reduction and safer nicotine delivery systems have helped in significantly reducing rates. It is time we in Pakistan also give harm reduction a chance in the fight against the tobacco epidemic.”