ISLAMABAD: Health activists have urged the government to impose ban on innovative products such as nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco devices to save Pakistan’s economy.

In a press release shared by Society for Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc), health activists have called for the need to recognise the health and economic harms of these products.

Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Malik Imran Ahmed said the economic cost of smoking in Pakistan was Rs615.07 billion which was equal to 1.6pc of Pakistan’s GDP but the revenue generated from the tobacco industry was only 20pc of the total cost. He mentioned that innovative products contained nicotine which was a proven addictive substance.

“Nicotine also leads to more dangerous forms of substance abuse and can cause serious health and mental issues among youth. These products are claimed as cessation products but, in fact, are new forms of addiction. The research, claiming that they are less harmful than cigarettes, is funded by the tobacco industry. The independent research has warned about their harms,” he said.

Mr Ahmed said Pakistan was facing perhaps the worst financial crisis since its existence, adding that “legalising novel tobacco products would not bring any substantial revenue”. “In fact it will cause more damage to our already depleted healthcare infrastructure. The government must recognise this immediately before it is too late,” he added.

Sparc Programme Manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar mentioned that due to cheap and easy affordability nearly 1,200 children began smoking every day in Pakistan.

“The tobacco industry has already misled the government by claiming that e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches were less harmful and only for smokers who wanted to quit. However these products are openly promoted online and sold to young and new consumers. We cannot afford any more children getting addicted to these new products,” he said.

“It is the responsibility of policymakers to ensure that no anti-child policy is implemented in the country. Banning novel tobacco products is in our national interest and the government should not be afraid to take this much needed step,” he added.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2023

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