Experts Call for National Tobacco Control Policy to Protect Children and Youth

A policy dialogue jointly organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) and Vital Strategies held in Islamabad demanded that strict measures be required to safeguard Pakistani children from the harms of tobacco products including nicotine pouches.

Dr. Ziauddin Islam, Country Lead Tobacco Control, Vital Strategies, Former Technical Head of Tobacco Control Cell of MoNHSRC, and Former Technical focal person of the Government of Pakistan for WHOs FCTC; citing a research report, said that Pakistan has become a marketing hotspot for tobacco and tobacco-related products. The report identified Pakistan as a “key trial market” for nicotine-based products, calling it the “tobacco industry’s” most “exciting opportunity” for streamlining its business model.

He further stated that the tobacco industry is promoting and marketing their products without restrictions, focusing on youth and kids to lure them into opting for this addiction. He further said that such products deliver varying amounts of the addictive chemical nicotine, which can negatively impact youth learning, attention span, and proneness to addiction. He demanded that there should be a complete ban on such nicotine pouches and the government should adopt necessary legislation at the earliest to save Pakistan’s youth.

Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), mentioned that the tobacco industry is trying to conquer the minds of children by manipulating them with different tactics of buying and using tobacco. The tobacco industry needs children as replacement smokers to swap for the people who lose their lives due to tobacco consumption. In order to become popular among children and youth, the tobacco industry has introduced novel products (nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes, and heated products). Social media and web advertisements are being used for sales and promotion. The tobacco industry is also engaging celebrities to promote these products.

Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager SPARC, mentioned under World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Pakistan has committed to implement pro-child measures to safeguard children from the harms of tobacco.

However, the ground reality is different. Pakistan is still struggling to implement a tobacco health levy, increase in taxation and graphical health warning, ban on novel products, and zero sales of tobacco products near educational institutions. There’s a dire need to implement these measures and adopt a sustainable National Tobacco Control Policy to safeguard our children and youth from the harms of tobacco.