THIS refers to the news report ‘Tobacco Control Cell disbanded’ (April 29), which came as a rude shock because the government has decided to close down the flagship project of pictorial health warning reforms under the supervision of the Tobacco Control Cell.

Who are the ‘public servants’ who took this decision which is against public health in the country? They must be aware of the fact that Pakistan has been a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) since November 2004.

Under the terms of the treaty, the government is required to abide by the guiding principles, acknowledging that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.

The staff of this unit in the Tobacco Control Cell was responsible for major policy initiatives to protect the public from the harms of tobacco which is estimated to cause the deaths of about 108,800 people annually, or 298 deaths per day.

It appears that the tobacco industry’s influence has played a significant part in the decision to abolish this unit by the end of this month. This is despite FCTC explicitly stating that government officials and employees should avoid conflicts of interest, limit interactions with the tobacco industry, and do not give preferential treatment to the said industry.

Given these requirements, it is obvious that the officials behind this decision were influenced by this very same industry. As such, they should be held accountable for their disservice to the people, especially the youth, of this country.

Tahir Turk
New South Wales, Australia

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2021

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