The Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan (CTC-Pak) urges the government of Pakistan to not fall for the misleading claims by the tobacco industry and compromise the health of youth of the country. While the neighbouring countries and rest of the world are implementing strict policies to protect public health, the government of Pakistan is sympathetic towards the tobacco industry to the extent that this year the tax on cigarettes might be decreased. The tobacco industry in Pakistan is vigilantly lobbying through national and international pressure on the government and providing misleading information in order to have less effective policy measures.
In 2015 when the government of Pakistan announced the new enhanced 85% Pictorial Health Warning (PHW) to promote awareness on health hazard from tobacco use, the industry retaliated using all kinds of pressures upon the Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC). In lieu of following events, a committee was constituted that recommended only 50% increase to accommodate the industry’s interest over health. This decision to compromise health over business was challenged by tobacco control advocates in the Islamabad High Court. The tobacco industry also intervened to become party to the case making same claims as made by the four major multinational tobacco companies British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris, and a tipping manufacturer (manufacturer of paper for cigarette filter tips) in 2016 in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, UK. The UK Court not only dismissed all those claims in its milestone 386 pages decision but also on May 20th, 2017, before the World No Tobacco Day, the law for plain packaging of cigarette packs will come into effect.
“Not just United Kingdom, but Australia, Nepal and India along with the rest of the world realized the importance of larger Pictorial Health Warning in protecting the health of their youth as new potential smoker. But in Pakistan, we are protecting the interest of tobacco industry by softening the policies or reducing taxes so their sales to youth and children could flourish.” Khurram Hashmi, the National Coordinator, CTC-Pak said. “Measures like large pictorial warnings cut smoking trends, reduce sufferings and avoidable deaths that is a fact no matter how we choose to remain delusional. We lose approximately 300 lives on daily basis because of tobacco use. According to the Government of Pakistan’s own survey, three out of 10 daily smokers started below the age of 17 years. If this is not alarming then what is?” asked the National Coordinator. “More than 250 partners of Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan support the tobacco control measures taken by the Government of Pakistan and support’s government’s firm stance to give health priority over to the tobacco industry’s business of playing with the human lives.”
Pakistan ratified and signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 and in 2010, Pakistan took a milestone step by introducing pictorial health warning on cigarette packs replacing the text based warnings. Studies have shown that tobacco use trend dropped significantly since the introduction of PHW in Pakistan. Which is why when the Government of Pakistan took another historical decision to enhance the warning size to 85% of packs, the tobacco industry in Pakistan became vigilant to counter this health measure that would bring the country from being 106th in the world ranking to third.
“People in low income jobs who have been affected by ailments caused by tobacco suffer heavy financial burden through medical costs. It doesn’t just affect them but also their families as on average one person per household of five works for the families’ livelihood so it influences life choices of the rest of its members as well.
If we take Pakistan to have a population of an estimated two hundred million and 29.5 percent of them live below the poverty line as per the report in 2016 taking into account 2013 to 2014 as per the government. The impact of health related costs would be sending approximately 2 percent people below the poverty line from being slightly above the poverty line.” Faraz Ahmed, the Associate Coordinator, CTC-Pak, told the press. “A bigger Pictorial Health warning educates people better which lead to some quitting and those who don’t quit, do it away from their loved ones. It reduces tobacco related diseases which reduces the health costs.”
CTC-Pak is the leading, largest coalition in the country that has been actively supporting the implementation of the 85 per cent PHW rules in Pakistan and is committed to raising awareness of the threat posed by the tobacco epidemic. It produces a variety of communications and advocacy materials to promote its activities and to inform journalists, the general public and its partners in the public health community about the harms of tobacco and of the steps that can be taken to reduce tobacco use to save lives of millions of Pakistanis.