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Saving youth from harmful emerging tobacco products stressed

September 05, 2022

Islamabad : Media can play a strong role to counter the deceptive campaigns of the tobacco industry to promote harmful emerging tobacco products in Pakistani youth, health activists said during a consultation organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC).

The health activists and the senior journalists explored the need to ban emerging products such as nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco devices, as they are becoming increasingly popular among Pakistani youth due to elaborate advertisement and promotional campaigns, said in a press release issued here on Sunday. Dr. Ziauddin Islam, former technical head/Dire­ctor, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of NHSR&C mentioned that the number of smokers in Pakistan has reached up to 29 million adding tobacco consumption is causing serious health implications for Pakistanis and yearly, 170,000 people die due to tobacco consumption.

Pakistan became a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on February 27, 2005. Our country was already struggling to counter threats posed by cigarettes but now the tobacco industry has launched these emerging products to gain more profit at expense of public health. Dr. Zia mentioned that in Pakistan there’s no federal or provincial legislation regarding emerging products.

Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance 2002 provides key guidelines regarding the advertisement, promotion, and sale of tobacco products to children. Such measures are required for emerging products as well to take them out of reach of children and youth.

Malik Imran Ahmed, Country head, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, utilizing the gap in policy-making, the tobacco industry has launched deceptive campaigns and profited from them. He added that emerging products have been directly targeted at youth using icons such as famous musicians, actors, and models for paid social media content.

The industry has even launched a music show. Furthermore, despite the claims, emerging products are being sold nearby educational institutions, playgrounds, and restaurants to attract young customers. Imran mentioned that the media’s extensive and unbiased coverage is the reason for the increase in the prices of cigarettes after 3 years.

The media needs to play its role in exposing the tobacco industry’s tactics regarding emerging products as well, he said. Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Programme Manager, SPARC, said that Pakistan is lucky to have a majority population of youths; 61 million youngsters are an asset to our country. Such dangerous products should have no room in a country like Pakistan. — APP