ISLAMABAD: Health advocates have expressed their concern over the premature decision taken by the former cabinet to legitimise heated-tobacco products (HTPs) through a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO).

In an official statement released by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), these health advocates are urgently calling on the Minister of Health to investigate the alarming situation of HTPs now being readily available for sale across Pakistan.

Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Malik Imran Ahmed underscored the seriousness of the matter, declaring, “the move to legitimise HTPs poses a significant threat to our public health objectives, particularly concerning our youth. These products have been sanctioned without conducting a thorough cost-benefit or risk assessment, making it easier for children and young people to adopt them. HTPs are not only highly habit-forming but also expose users, including our children, to a hazardous mix of harmful chemicals and carcinogens. We cannot compromise the health of our citizens, especially the younger generation, by permitting these harmful products into the market. It is our moral obligation to shield our children from the predatory tactics of the tobacco industry, which seeks to profit at the expense of the nation’s well-being.”

Former Technical Head of the Tobacco Control Cell at the Ministry of Health Dr Ziauddin Islam emphasised the critical importance of making decisions based on evidence, stating, “the evidence is crystal clear: HTPs are not a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. Their consumption leads to addiction and a wide range of severe health issues, including respiratory and cardiovascular problems. As responsible guardians of public health, it is essential that we act in the best interests of our population’s health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has consistently cautioned against the use of HTPs, urging governments worldwide to implement stringent regulations to protect their citizens. Pakistan should heed this call and prioritize the health and well-being of its people above all else.”

Programme Manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar emphasised the importance of protecting the rights and health of children.

“We call upon the government to reconsider this decision, as it could have severe consequences for the well-being of our youth,” he said.

Mr Dogar urged the health minister to engage in comprehensive discussions with public health experts, civil society organisations, and concerned citizens to ensure that any regulatory measures prioritise the health and well-being of the people of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2023

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