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KARACHI: The illegal sale of cigarettes in Pakistan is posing a serious threat to public health and nullifying Government’s tobacco control initiatives.

According to the Federal Ministry of National Health Services Regulations, 166,000 deaths are caused by smoking in Pakistan every year. Ministry highlighted that young people are being targeted to manage this gap of smokers. As per the statistics of the federal ministry, children and youth between the ages of 6 and 15 are starting to smoke on a daily basis in the country.

“These alarming statistics prove that tobacco control laws are being openly violated and despite having legal authority, the authorities are not interested in stopping the illegal sale of cigarettes,” said Prof (retd) Nadeem Rizvi, Former HOD Dept Chest Med, JPMC.

“Despite the Government’s ban, we see cigarette promotions, cigarettes are being sold to minors and despite a regulatory minimum price of Rs63 per pack, cigarettes are being sold as low as Rs 20,” he added.

He said that it is imperative for authorities to start crackdown against violators of laws and eliminate the illegal sales of cigarettes before it is too late.

It is pertinent to mention that under SRO1068 (I) / 2006 and SRO46 (I) / 2007, provincial governments and the federal capital administration have the power to enforce anti-smoking laws. The law authorises police officers of the ASI and higher ranks to take action against violators, and the offence has been declared a cognisable offence.

Earlier, a letter from the Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination to all provincial police chiefs called for strict implementation of anti-smoking laws and the Non-Smoking Health Protection Ordinance 2002, but the law did not come into force.

According to the Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and serious lung diseases account for 68 percent of diseases in Pakistan.

Illegally sold cigarettes target young people through advertisements, luring prizes, and offering cigarettes at low prices, which accounts for 51 percent of the youth suffering from these non-communicable diseases.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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