IT has taken a while to achieve the goal, but better late than never.
In was in December 2016 that the Senate Standing Committee on the National Health Services suggested that the sale of loose cigarettes be banned to bolster the state’s efforts to reduce the incidence of tobacco addiction in society.
While that suggestion could not be implemented then, on Tuesday, the federal cabinet took the laudable decision to impose such a ban.
The logic is sound, as many other countries have already demonstrated in the West, and in the region (such as Iran and Nepal).
The availability of loose cigarettes has particularly given children, who do not have enough money to buy a pack of cigarettes, ready access to poison.
Banning their sale thus protects this significant section of the population.
WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control also recommends this move.
Pakistan has already outlawed the sale of cigarettes to minors (though implementation has been patchy) and 10-cigarette packets.
Smoking is prohibited in all public places.
Even so, last year the Network for Consumer Protection released a report that showed that cigarette-manufacturing companies target children as young as six by placing advertisements and products in shops around educational institutions.
The health ministry says that as soon as the cabinet’s decision is received in writing, a statutory regulatory order will be issued to enforce the new ban across the country.
The way will then be paved to impose fines on violators and send them to jail.
While this is an appreciable move in the country’s anti-smoking efforts, what is also needed as a bolstering mechanism is a wide-scale and sustained awareness-raising campaign with an emphatic focus on the dangers of tobacco use.
True, cigarette packets by law carry warning labels.
But arguably, many of those who read these are already addicted to the scourge.
As the West has demonstrated, resistance also has to be stoked within society, stripping away decades — even centuries — of lies that smoking is acceptable and non-injurious to health.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018