Senate body’s suggestion to legalise Sheesha centres criticised

Updated July 14, 2019

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Health advocates have criticised the recommendation of a parliamentary committee to declare Sheesha centres as legal and said parliamentarians should keep public interest in mind. — AFP/File
Health advocates have criticised the recommendation of a parliamentary committee to declare Sheesha centres as legal and said parliamentarians should keep public interest in mind. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Health advocates have criticised the recommendation of a parliamentary committee to declare Sheesha centres as legal and said parliamentarians should keep public interest in mind.

They said another suggestion of the committee that the tobacco industry should be given representation in parliamentary “committee for tobacco advertisement guideline” was a violation of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and would become a matter of embarrassment for Pakistan.

During the meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services with Senator Mian Ateeq Shaikh in the chair on Friday, some of the senators suggested that Sheesha centres should be legalised as due to a ban on them people had started using Sheesha at their homes. Moreover, the committee suggested that the tobacco industry should be given representation in the parliamentary committee which was looking into guidelines for tobacco advertisements.

Health advocate says instead of protecting tobacco industry lawmakers should take care of public health

Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan coordinator Khurram Hashmi told Dawn that Sheesha centres were banned on the orders of the Supreme Court and the Senate committee should not roll back the decision.

“Unfortunately, some parliamentarians watch the interest of the business community. They should be more concerned about the health of the citizens,” he said.

Head of The Network for Consumer Protection Nadeem Iqbal said he was a party in the suo motu case which was heard for almost three years by the apex court and finally Sheesha centres were banned.

“At that time, some people were considering placing huge investments in Sheesha centres but that was stopped because of the Supreme Court orders.”

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids representative Malik Imran said it was unfortunate that the suggestion to legalise Sheesha centres had been made by parliamentarians.

“A large number of people use drugs at their homes because of the ban on it so should we establish centres where use of drugs would be allowed. Moreover, the committee has suggested that the tobacco industry should be given representation in the parliamentary committee. It is a violation of Section 5.3 of FCTC. If it happens, Pakistan will face criticism at the international level because we are a signatory to the FCTC,” he said.

Pakistan National Heart Association General Secretary Sanaullah Ghumman said some parliamentarians were associated with the tobacco business and they watched the interest of the industry.

“I suggest that the parliamentary committee should care about the health of the people rather than the interest of the tobacco industry,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019