Harmful effects of nicotine products discussed

Islamabad: Media in Pakistan must raise awareness of the damage nicotine products do to human lives, participants agreed in a discussion organized by the Society for the Protection of Children’s Rights (SPARC).

Malik Imran, national manager of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, was like a mogul in this discussion. He said nicotine is now available in sachets sold with sweets for children, which needs to stop.

“Our future is in our hands. People are dying in other countries because of the use of this new product. It was banned there. But in Pakistan it is produced or imported because there is no law to deal with this problem.

In a casual conversation, he said, “Where there is will, there is law. We sit on parliamentary panels discussing the prevalence of nicotine products in society and are amazed to know that the agents of the manufacturers of these products contradict us there. They are everywhere,” he said.

He said the good thing is that the media in Pakistan is vigilant against this crime which is why nicotine products have been taxed this year more than ever. These new products are launched under the slogan that they will wean smokers from cigarettes. “My question is, if they are aimed at weaning cigarette smokers, why are they being sold to non-smokers?” Imran said.

Dr Ziauddin Islam, a former health ministry employee, said the number of smokers in Pakistan had reached 29 million. Each year, 170,000 people die from tobacco consumption. Pakistan is a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Dr. Zia mentioned that in Pakistan, there is no federal or provincial legislation regarding these new nicotine products. Media researcher Dr. Hassan Shehzad pointed out that sometimes inflated numbers are appearing in society in the name of raising awareness about the harms of nicotine. These figures are discredited by research. Dr Shehzad said there is a need to collect new data and explore new dimensions of this topic. He lamented the fact that journalists tend to report from the podium, stressing the need for journalists to interact with all participants in the discussions to get the bigger picture. Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Director, SPARC, said that 61 million young people are an asset to the country and the country should save it from nicotine addiction.

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