The Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) of Ministry of National Health Services has conducted more than 402 awareness and capacity building sessions for Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), authorized persons and general public in which about 12,000 persons have been sensitized and trained. The Cell is taking demand and supply reduction measures to control epidemic of tobacco use in the country.
Tobacco use is a single largest preventable cause of death in the world and in Pakistan, tobacco kills 1645 men and 442 women every week which is about 298 deaths per day, 2087 per week and 108,800 per year.
According to Tobacco Atlas, 5th Edition, World Lung Foundation- 2015, the diseases caused by tobacco use include lung cancers, heart diseases, stroke and illnesses. Highlighting the measures adopted by the Cell to control tobacco epidemic in the country, official sources on Sunday said these included Policy and Legislation Level Interventions, ban on import of Sheesha (tobacco and non-tobacco) and related substances, introduction of Pictorial Health Warning on cigarette packs and outers, ban on tobacco products advertisement in print, electronic and outdoor media and ban on free samples, cash rebates, discounts and sponsorship of events.
The other steps included ban on manufacturing and sale of cigarettes packs having less than 20 cigarette sticks, illegalization of “Designated Smoking Areas,” and increase in FED on cigarette packs (40.33% increase in FED in last two financial years-44.77% on lower slab and 35.89 % on upper slab).
Under infrastructure development and institutionalization, the sources said Tobacco Control Cells have been established in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan while Punjab and Sindh have committed the same.
Some other steps included formation of National Technical Advisory Group (TAG), formation of technical working group on tobacco taxation, formation and activation of Provincial Implementation Committees/Task forces for tobacco control in provinces, formation and activation of District Implementation & Monitoring Committees on tobacco control in model districts and formation of district enforcement teams in model districts. Moreover, under awareness interventions, the sources said the Cell conducted provincial and district implementation committees meetings, launching of two national mass media campaigns – Sponge (2016) and Tobacco is Hollowing You Out (2015), dissemination of information materials on hazards of tobacco use, second hand tobacco smoke and tobacco control laws (1,157,000 units have been disseminated), installation of plates/posters carrying “Smoking is an Offense” message in ministries, schools/universities, hotels, public service vehicles and other public places and also installation of 200 boards with tobacco control messages at public places in Islamabad.
Similarly, under multifarious awareness interventions, the sources said Cell’s endeavours included Radio and TV Programmes, newspaper ads, production and airing of two documentary films in national and regional languages, incorporation of tobacco control messages in curriculum and branding of buses with tobacco control messages in Islamabad/Rawalpindi.
The sources said under enforcement measures, the Cell ensured capacity building of law enforcement officers/authorized persons, raids by law enforcement teams and as a result 963 cases have been registered across the country under various sections of 2002 Ordinance. Following are main tobacco control laws that are available to the Cell: Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smoker’s Health Ordinance, 2002 and Cigarette (Printing of Warning) Ordinance, 1979: Amendment in 2002.