ISLAMABAD: Health activists on Tuesday demanded strict measures aimed at safeguarding children from the harms of tobacco products including nicotine pouches.

They were speaking to participants of a policy dialogue jointly organised by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) and Vital Strategies.

Former Technical Head of Tobacco Control Cell of Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) Dr Ziauddin Islam, citing a research report, said that Pakistan had become a marketing hotspot for tobacco and tobacco-related products.

The report identified Pakistan as a “key trial market” for nicotine-based products, calling it the “tobacco industry’s most exciting opportunity” for streamlining its business model.

He further said that industry was promoting and marketing their products without restrictions, focusing on youth and kids to lure them into this addiction.

“Such products deliver varying amounts of the addictive chemical nicotine, which can negatively impact youth learning, attention span, and proneness to addiction. I demand that there should be a complete ban on such nicotine pouches and the government should adopt necessary legislation at the earliest to save Pakistan’s youth,” Dr Zia said.

Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, mentioned that tobacco industry was trying to conquer minds of children by manipulating them with different tactics of buying and using tobacco.

“Tobacco industry needs children as replacement smokers to swap for the people who lose their lives due to tobacco consumption. In order to become popular among children and youth, tobacco industry has introduced novel products (nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes and heated products). Social Media, web advertisements are being used for sales and promotion.

“Tobacco industry is also engaging celebrities to promote these products,” he said.

Sparc Programme Manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar said under World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Pakistan has committed to implementing pro-child measures to safeguard children from harms of tobacco.

“However ground reality is different. Pakistan is still struggling to implement tobacco health levy, increase in taxation and graphical health warning, ban on novel products, and zero sales of tobacco products near educational institutions,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2022

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