The Coalition for Tobacco Control (CTC-Pak) Saturday said with its resources and access to policy making forums, tobacco industry is stonewalling all efforts for tobacco control in Pakistan.
"The aggressive campaign by the tobacco industry to take attention away from the real and dangerous problem of smoking on this World No Tobacco Day is staggering," said Khurram Hashmi, the National Coordinator of CTC-Pak.
He termed the campaign regarding illicit cigarettes launched by a cigarette manufacturing company as most unfortunate. "It gives the impression as if smoking is an innocuous habit and is in danger because of illicit cigarette trade."
Khurram said it is interesting to note that tobacco industry wants to save Rs44 billion for Pakistan in taxes by fighting illicit cigarette trade but did not want to spend it on providing smoking cessation services. "Currently smoking cessation services in Pakistan are non-existent."
Another emerging threat, he added, was the use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco product. 'Under the garb of harm reduction, tobacco industry is now promoting e-cigarettes as one of the solutions to smoking."
The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) has advocated for the banning of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco product sales in low-and middle-income countries.
In Pakistan, he said, the use of such products is small and restricted to the rich as e-cigarettes are expensive. "But the use of e-cigarettes is increasing, though slowly."
The CTC National Coordinator called for finalizing and implementing the national strategy on tobacco control in Pakistan. He added CTC has submitted a draft national strategy on tobacco control to the federal Ministry of Health and other relevant stakeholders. "It is time we put in place strong tobacco control measures in place, both at the federal and provincial levels."