ISLAMABAD – Deadly products of the tobacco industry are killing the present and future of Pakistani Children. Government must ensure that children remain protected from these products.
These views were shared by the speakers during an event organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) to celebrate World No Tobacco Day 2023.
Dr Shazia Sobia Aslam Soomro, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of National Health Services Regulations & Coordination, said that the 61 million youth is an asset for Pakistan but the addictive and dangerous tobacco products are a threat to our present and future. The government recently increased the tax on tobacco products so that they go beyond the purchasing power of youth.
She further added that approximately 1200 children begin smoking daily and 170,000 people die due to tobacco-induced diseases every year. We can’t let young lives suffer at any cost. Youth must thrive and for that increasing tobacco prices to keep it away from children’s reach is imperative.
Dr Nisar Ahmed Cheema, MNA and Member Standing Committee Health talked about the theme of World No Tobacco Day 2023 – We Need Food, Not Tobacco. He said that due to inflation the children and youth of Pakistan are facing severe issues in meeting their educational, nutritional, and recreational requirements. Hence government’s decision to increase tobacco prices should be welcomed and supported by all.
Dr Samina Matloob, Member, Standing Committee, National Assembly of Pakistan for National Health Services Regulations & Coordination, said Pakistani youth is bombarded with sales and advertisements of tobacco products. In homes, Educational Institutions, and Recreational spaces, these products are very where. It is our collective responsibility to protect our children and youth from these products.
Dr. Ziauddin Islam, Former Technical Head, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health, tobacco industry claims to be a provider but in reality, it is causing damage to the economy. The recent decision by the government to increase Federal Excise Duty on tobacco products is commendable. In order to build on this, FED should be increased according to the inflation for the fiscal year 2023-24.
Suleman Ahmed, DG, Higher Education Commission (HEC), our youth wants a safe and healthy future. It is about time our policymakers decide whether they want to support the youth or an industry which trying to recruit these youth as replacements to keep its profits going.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager SPARC, mentioned that the track and trace system implemented by the FBR in Pakistan is a great way to ensure that tobacco industry can’t cause any further damage to our economy. He mentioned that since the implementation of this system production of cigarette sticks has decreased whereas FBR’s tax collection has improved by 11.75 per cent.
Khalida Ahmed, Member, Board of Directors, SPARC, stated that since 1992 SPARC is working for child rights. Tobacco is a direct threat to multiple child rights and therefore we are committed to safeguarding our children and youth from the harms of tobacco. SPARC has initiated the “Youth Advocates Against Tobacco” campaign with the vision of creating a tobacco-free Pakistan. Our aim is to encourage our youngsters to come forward and play a part today and in future as well.
The event was attended by senior journalists, civil society activists, and health advocates who appreciate SPARC for their continuous efforts in raising awareness of the harms of tobacco.