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The News International

Published Date: Jan 18, 2020

Concerns voiced over tobacco products’ availability to children

An awareness session on the tobacco control law was organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) at a hotel in Karachi on January 17. The event was part of the organisation’s campaign ‘Let‘s Make Karachi Smoke Free‘, said a press release on Friday.
The session organised in coordination with the DIMC discussed the tobacco control law and its related SROs in detail. The general misconceptions such as definition of public places, smoking areas in premises of public places, sale of loose cigarettes, marketing and display of tobacco products were discussed.
The harms of second-hand and third-hand smoking, and tobacco in other forms such as Sheesha were also shared in detail. The participants belonging to different government departments were also informed about the responsibilities that befell them to ensure compliance with the law at public places.
Due to lack of implementation of the law, tobacco brands are being sold near schools and school playgrounds. Sales of cigarettes via single sticks have made tobacco products cheap and accessible to children and youth around schools. Display of tobacco products at point-of-sale in appealing ways is also increasing the number of new smokers.
Deputy Commissioner South Irshad Ali Sodhar says Pakistan became a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in February 2005. Pakistan has a federal law on Tobacco Control: Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance No. LXXIV of 2002. The law bans smoking at public places and public service vehicles. It also bans the sale of tobacco products to children and in the vicinity of educational institutions. The law also restricts Tobacco Advertisement, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS), said Anees Jillani, founder of SPARC, on the occasion. Every day, approximately 1,200 children start smoking in Pakistan. There are over 23.9 million tobacco users in Pakistan, out of whom 125,000 are dying every year because of tobacco-related diseases (according to the data of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 2018-19).
Legal expert Iqbal Detho discussed the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance No. LXXIV of 2002. He said the law is protecting the non-smoker’s health and restricts the smoker.
Kashif Mirza, project manager of SPARC, said, “We took up this challenge and lobbied with the Chief Minister Office, Chief Secretary Office, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and District Administration. As a result, KMC and several government departments have appointed focal persons to undertake this issue in their respective domains. Furthermore, Tobacco Control Cell in District South has been reactivated, and the Implementation Monitoring and Committee (DIMC) has been established in District South.”
Shumaila Vistro, child rights activist, said the smoking habit of youngsters, the growing habit of smoking in youngsters, is the initial step to get attracted to drugs. He highlighted the crucial role of the anti-smoking campaign reducing the health risks in schools and colleges.
Prof Dr Farah Iqbal, the chairperson of the Psychology Department at the University of Karachi, said that cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals – over 50 of which are known to be toxic in nature. Carbon monoxide also found in car exhaust fumes, butane found in lighter fluid, and arsenic, ammonia, and methanol found in rocket fuel, for example.
Zulfiqar Khuskh, additional deputy commissioner South, Faheem Memon, additional deputy commissioner South and the chairman of the DIMC South were notable speakers at the session.
The session, organised in coordination with the District Administration South Karachi, and different government departments, private sector, civil society and media representatives participated.