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Solid steps needed to implement WHO convention

Islamabad

June 6, 2020

Islamabad : Concrete measures are needed for implementation of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), set by World Health Organisation (WHO), to curb tobacco consumption in the country, health experts told reporters on Friday in a webinar.

They said the Ministry of Health needs to do more in this regard so that big cigarette makers are discouraged and their profits are rationalized through appropriate taxes.

“Still the ministry has not pushed for sin tax and increase of pictorial warning on tobacco packs up to 70 percent,” they said.

They said the plan of earning from the increased taxes on tobacco products and spending on health infrastructure is still on papers as little has been done on grounds.

Dr Muhammad Zaman said lukewarm efforts to increase taxes on tobacco amount to defying the commitments made with the WHO FCTC.

Previous year, the ministry proposed implementing health tax on tobacco products and in 2018 it had asked for increasing the tax on tobacco products to spend the revenue on health sector.

However, both proposals were minutely considered by the departments concerned.

“This year the ministry didn’t even stress seriously for the increase of tobacco tax,” he said.

Special Assistant to Prime Minster (SAPM) on NHS Dr Zafar Mirza in his statement said that the global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 8 million people globally. More than 7 million of these deaths are from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. More than 80% of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low-and middle-income countries. In Pakistan tobacco use remains a major public health challenge claiming 160,000 lives annually. Furthermore, 1200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6 to 15 starts smoking daily which is alarming.

Under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty to which Pakistan is a signatory, the Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (MNHSRC) has an obligation to develop strategies to protect the health of Pakistanis from tobacco exposure.

Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination in coordination with the provinces has developed a draft national policy to sustain the tobacco control efforts in Pakistan.

Dr Mirza said, “Our Ministry has tabled an ambitious tobacco taxation reforms proposal for consideration in the upcoming budget which seeks Rs24 billion in additional tax revenue which will be used for saving the lives of public. I am pleased to share that we successfully implemented a “Smoke Free Islamabad Model” through 85 % compliance of tobacco control laws. All Public Parks, high-rise buildings, food outlets and public transport smoke free in Islamabad. This model has also hence far been replicated in 5 model districts. Our Smoke Free Model has been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation.”

He said, “We will continue to strive to raise taxes, enhance size of Graphic Health Warnings and promote a smoke free society by providing a counter-marketing campaign, awareness against nicotine use and empower young people to engage in the fight against Tobacco.”