MOST readers know about the hazards of cigarette smoking, which is linked to a host of illnesses, including acute myeloid leukaemia, lung cancer, throat cancer, oral cavity and heart disease. But despite increasing awareness, the sale and production of tobacco products have risen in large parts of the world. According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco kills more than 8m people each year, including 1.2m non-smokers who are unfortunately exposed to second-hand smoke. Even more worryingly, WHO estimates that over 80pc of all smokers reside in low- and middle-income countries, which already suffer from overburdened healthcare systems. In Pakistan, the use of cigarettes, gutka and sheesha are still largely culturally acceptable habits and fairly inexpensive and easy to acquire. To counter this damaging trend, the Ministry of National Health Services has now imposed a ban on the display of cigarettes at sale points, hoping it will lead to a reduction in the number of smokers in the country. There is reason to believe that such policies work, but only if they are implemented on the ground through sustained efforts by lawmakers and the law-enforcement authorities. Otherwise, policy on paper alone cannot lead to change. For instance, despite a ban on the sale of loose cigarettes, shopkeepers continue the practice, without fear of facing repercussions.

Pakistan is signatory to the Convention on Tobacco Control, which calls on governments to impose taxes on tobacco products, increase awareness on the harms of cigarette smoking, and restrict indoor venues for public smoking. It also calls for “a limitation in the interactions between lawmakers and the tobacco industry” to prevent lobbying by Big Tobacco companies, which happen to be major taxpayers in the country. Last year, however, the prime minister was photographed receiving a cheque from the representative of an international tobacco company to construct dams in the country — in spite of his own record of building free-of-charge cancer facilities. Change must begin at the top.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2020

Opinion

Trending political talk
18 May 2021

Trending political talk

Come December and the Lahore jalsa and the shirt lengths went up a bit. The fad was changing.
Policy rate primer
17 May 2021

Policy rate primer

Economic activity generated by a lower policy rate may be illusory.

Editorial

18 May 2021

Hard balancing act

FOREIGN MINISTER Shah Mahmood Qureshi has told his US counterpart Antony Blinken that Pakistan desires a broad-based...
18 May 2021

Covid awareness

THE effects of large gatherings over Eid as well as multiple home visits will be apparent in the days to come and...
18 May 2021

Karachi’s drains

THE initial realisation that Cyclone Tauktae was headed for the Sindh coast prompted the powers that be in the...
Palestine bloodbath
Updated 17 May 2021

Palestine bloodbath

One wonders whether the right of self-defence allows a country to butcher toddlers and the disabled, as Tel Aviv has done in Gaza.
17 May 2021

Registering madressahs

DURING the past two decades, several attempts by successive governments to standardise and regularise madressahs ...
17 May 2021

LSM growth

THE robust growth in large-scale industrial output since July last year has generated a kind of economic optimism...