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April 29, 2021

Govt closes down flagship project of Pictorial Health Warning Reforms

National

April 29, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The government has closed down the flagship project of Pictorial Health Warning Reforms under the supervision of Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) thus relieving Dr Zia, who is considered as staunch campaigner of anti-tobacco and anti-illicit cigarettes in Pakistan. The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (MONHRSC) made a decision regarding the Tobacco Control Cell whereby the project “Pictorial Health Warning Reforms” is closing on 31-05-2021.

The official sources said that the closing down of this important project was aimed at sacking of Dr Zia, who took a number of initiatives, including proposed Health Levy that made the tobacco industry highly uncomfortable. Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid on Wednesday stated during a webinar organised by the Society for the Protection of Child (SPARC) that she was not aware about the closing down of TCC and its flagship project because she was in Lahore for the last one week.

She said that she would definitely take up this issue before the ministry’s high-ups. She said she would raise all concerns expressed here for ensuring the tobacco control.Dr Zia is a public health expert and health economist. He had joined as Project Coordinator to BI-funded project of TCC on Tobacco Control Cell in 2009.

From 2011 to 2013, till joining the Ministry of National Health Services, he continued leading the TCC, despite revolving TCC supervision from Health Services Academy, Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination, Cabinet Division and finally to Ministry of NHSR&C.

For Pictorial Health Warning (PHW) on cigarettes packet, he played a major role. In 2015, he played a key role for approval of PHW, defended enhanced size PHW in different ministries. He is the focal and technical person of the Government of Pakistan for Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and International Tobacco Control (ITP) since 2015 and 2018.

In 2018, when there was no support from any corner in and outside the government, he lobbied and managed to get approval from the Government of Pakistan to become a party to the new protocol of FCTC on the illicit trade of tobacco products.

He managed to get implementation and enforcement of TC laws through Provincial and District Implementation Committees on Tobacco Control.As the deputy project director of TCC, he managed to launch the Smoke-Free Islamabad project in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

In 2019, he developed and submitted a proposal for Sin Tax followed by the new proposal as the Federal Health Levy. He developed the Federal Health Levy bill, 2019 and managed to convince the Ministry of NHSR&C to submit it to the cabinet where it was approved in June 2019.