Do not legalise Sheesha


RECOMMENDATION made by the Senate Standing on National Health Services the other day that Sheesha smoking should be legalized has surprised and shocked many and one expects the government will not give any ears to it if it really feels and cares for the health of the public. It was astonishing to see some of the members of the Committee giving lame justification to get the ban lifted on Sheesha smoking.
In fact according to latest studies as well as the World Health Organization, Sheesha smoking is considered one hundred times more dangerous than cigarette. An average Sheesha session can last about one hour. This exposure to the tobacco smoke, which is carcinogenic, is dangerous to health and is a cause for concern not only for the individual smoking but the people who are affected by passive smoking. It was on the Supreme Court’s directions that Sheesha cafes were banned and the suggestion by one of the members of the Standing Committee that legalizing Sheesha will help government collect more taxes indeed is as ridiculous and absurd as his justification that Sheesha smoking is not banned in developed countries then why in Pakistan? If that is the case then our country should also allow open sale and consumption of alcohol as the same is not banned in developed countries. In fact if Pakistan has done something good for the sake of public health then it should be presented before the world as an example so that they also follow it. Indeed everybody supports imposition of additional taxes on tobacco related products. But the main objective behind is not to collect more revenue but to discourage the use of tobacco-related products. Unfortunately, some parliamentarians are watching the interest of the business community. They should be more concerned about the health of the citizens rather than the tobacco industry. There should be more calls from them for the crackdown against those illegally allowing Sheesha smoking as well as for launch of large scale awareness campaigns to discourage its use. Moreover, the Committee also suggested that the tobacco industry should be given representation in the Parliamentary Committee. It is a violation of Section 5.3 of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). If it happens, Pakistan will face criticism at the international level because we are a signatory to the FCTC.