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March 13, 2020

Pakistan creates history by clubbing tobacco, narcotics control

Islamabad

March 13, 2020

Islamabad : Smoking being a major precursor for drug use, Pakistan created history here Thursday by signing a Letter of Intent (LOI) under which drugs, narcotics, and tobacco control have been clubbed together as part of a unique partnership model that will potentially create a tobacco-free generation. Under the partnership, all establishments of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), including its Regional Directorates, will become tobacco-free with immediate effect in line with Article 8 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The credit for the initiative is shared by ANF, the Tobacco Control Directorate of the Ministry of Health, and the World Health Organisation (WHO). At a simple ceremony held at the ANF Headquarters on Thursday, WHO Representative in Pakistan Dr. Palitha Mahipala signed the LOI with ANF and Ministry of Health. Director Drug Demand Reduction ANF Muhammad Riaz Soomro, and Deputy Director General of the Ministry of National Health Services and Project Director of the Tobacco Smoke-Free Islamabad Project Dr. Minhaj-us-Siraj signed the LOI on behalf of ANF and the Ministry, respectively. Deputy Director General ANF Ghulam Qadir Thebo was also present along with his team.

The partnership will level the ground for a coordinated effort to collectively control, regulate and discourage drugs and tobacco use through extensive demand reduction strategies including awareness campaigns, strengthening of regulatory mechanisms, and development of sub-national infrastructure for rehabilitation of drug addicts and smokers through all Regional Directorates of ANF and District Tobacco Control Cells of 13 major districts across the country. According to the agreement, all ANF establishments will become tobacco-free with immediate effect, with focal points being appointed in each directorate for accelerated action.

Under the LOI, WHO will provide technical support for the development of policy guidelines for creating an environment which is free of tobacco and drugs. WHO will also collaborate with ANF and the Ministry of Health for undertaking research to generate evidence-based local data.

Speaking on the occasion, Director General ANF Maj. Gen Muhammad Arif Malik termed the partnership “a historical event for the country,” and lauded Dr. Palitha for extending all-out support to the venture. He also appreciated the efforts of the WHO Country Office in supporting the control of Coronavirus, polio and other fatal illnesses in Pakistan. “Since drug addiction has been declared a health issue, the Dr. Palitha’s commitment to support the rehabilitation of drug addicts is a very noble step,” said Gen. Arif Malik. According to the LOI, the Model Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres of ANF will soon be upgraded in consultation with WHO experts to offer tobacco cessation services as well.

Dr. Palitha assured the government of all-out support to the cause of tobacco control and congratulated ANF and the Ministry of Health for creating a unique model for the establishment of a society free of drugs and tobacco. He said, he considers Pakistan as his own country and is keen to be of assistance in handling public health issues facing the country.

According to Dr. Minhaj, the Ministry of Health has developed sub-national tobacco control leadership in the district governments of 13 major districts—from Islamabad to Karachi—within a short timespan. He said, their innovative approaches have started to leave a strong footprint in the community. He hoped that ANF and the Directorate of Tobacco Control would together become a leading trendsetter for the region in drugs and tobacco control, with technical assistance from WHO. Dr. Siraj also highlighted the need to register a team of young volunteers for the cause.