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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan should consider adopting tobacco harm reduction strategies as part of tobacco control in public health regulatory frameworks.

According to a recently published international research report “Integrating harm reduction into tobacco control”, authored by various doctors and researchers from different countries including Dr S Abbas Raza, Consultant Endocrinologist at Shaukat Khanum Hospital and Research, integration of harm reduction measures as the main pillar of the comprehensive tobacco control framework, particularly in Pakistan is the need of the time.

By adopting tobacco harm reduction strategies more than 1.2 million precious lives can be saved in Pakistan, the report said.

According to research report, tobacco harm reduction products are used by 112 million people globally, mostly living in high income countries. In these countries like Sweden, UK, Japan, Lithuania, USA tobacco harm reduction products use has a positive impact on the declining use of combustibles. The study’s key findings indicate that significant lives can be saved in these countries through widespread adoption of tobacco harm reduction initiatives and related measures.

According to health experts, Pakistan should also adopt the footstep of various European countries by including scientific proven tobacco harm reduction initiatives in its tobacco control strategy. Adults should be given the opportunity to make informed better and less harmful choices rather than imposing unjustified bans that leave them with limited options.

According to health experts, to address the smoking epidemic in the UK its government utilized the latest modern scientific innovations in the tobacco harm reduction field. Rather than demonizing THR products, the UK promotes it as a proactive and innovative way to keep people away from smoking and give chance to thousands of smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives.

Various European countries including Sweden have seen a remarkable decrease in smoking figures due to successful implementation of tobacco harm reduction strategies and allowing adult consumers to choose less risky alternatives to conventional tobacco products. EU has declared the goal of making its countries smoke-free till 2040. According to international health experts, EU country’s major focus is adopting tobacco harm reduction which is proactively used to drive down smoking rates and significantly reduce smoking-related mortality and morbidity.

While on the other hand, our neighbouring country India has banned THR product in 2019. This has been proved a major failure in India, driving consumers to the black market and putting them at risk of consuming riskier products than the ones available on the legal market.

Alternative tobacco harm reduction products are the result of many years of technological development and research, powered by innovation. There is a low awareness and lack of understanding about the scientific evidence that demonstrates the reduced risk potential of available nicotine alternatives compared to traditional tobacco usage. It is important that adult tobacco users should be sensitized about the benefits of tobacco harm reduction innovations so that Pakistan can significantly reduce smoking-related mortality and morbidity, experts added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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