ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta on Friday said Pakistan has failed to implement World Health Organisation (WHO)’s tobacco control framework which is a potential embarrassment for the country.

In a statement, he said Pakistan had decided to introduce the pictorial warning up to 60 per cent of cigarette packs by the end of this month.

Mr Atta has recently been appointed as the focal person on tobacco control.

Soon after taking the charge, Mr Atta held a meeting with tobacco control cell of the Ministry of National Health Services and it was decided that new pictorial health warning on 60pc of the cigarette packets would be introduced on May 31.

“The PM Office has been declared 100pc tobacco free. Ban on all advertising, including inside shops, will be ensured,” he said.

The government recently faced embarrassment after a controversy erupted on social media when Prime Minister Imran Khan met the representative of a multinational tobacco company and received Rs5 million in the Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand Dam fund.

The picture of the meeting invited a backlash from the anti-tobacco groups that receiving money from the tobacco company was a violation of Article 5.3 of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Many activists even wrote that ‘it was unusual for a person who runs a cancer hospital and remained an anti-tobacco advocate to receive the money from cigarette makers, as is the major cause of cancer.’ Mr Atta said tobacco was by far the biggest killer in Pakistan claiming 160,000 lives annually.

In a tweet, he also quoted a survey conducted by a group, Tobacco Free Pakistan, showing that leading actors and filmmakers of Pakistan including Syed Noor, Tauqeer Nasir, Shahida Mini and Megha supported the idea of imposing heavy taxes on cigarettes in the coming budget.

The survey asked, ‘What percentage should the price of cigarette packs be hiked in the upcoming budget?’ Out of 4,797 smokers, 25pc said they would reduce smoking if prices would be increased by 100pc, around 11pc said they would reduce smoking if prices would be increased by 200pc and 64pc said they would reduce smoking if prices would be increased by 300pc.

Pakistan signed and ratified FCTC in 2004 under which the country has to take steps to reduce demand and supply of tobacco products by implementing measures reflected in the convention.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2019