Children are the soft targets of tobacco industry: Senator Sitara Ayaz

ISLAMABAD: Senator Sitara Ayaz said that Universal Children day is not just a celebration of children for being the gift of God that they are but to address the issues afflicting children across the world. She was speaking at an event in Islamabad to celebrate Universal Child Day.

She further added in addition to the persistent challenges of health, nutrition and education, tobacco consumption is a growing factor.  About 1,200 children between the ages of six and 15 start smoking in Pakistan every day. As per the guidelines of WHO we must raise taxes on cigarettes by 30% and implement health levy bill to make them unaffordable for children. She said government must implement health leavy of Rs 10 for the better future of the children of Pakistan.

Afshan Tehseen, Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) said, the tobacco industry targets children in its advertising. She added it is extremely important to take necessary legislative and regulatory measures to protect children from tobacco, and ensure that the interests of children take precedence over those of the tobacco industry.

She said that children are also exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. Nearly 700 million, or almost half of the world’s children, breathe air polluted by second-hand smoke, according to the report.

Sajjad Ahmed Cheema, Executive Director, SPARC said that the main responsibility of state and its institutions, besides the parents themselves, was to provide children with better living conditions.  Youth tobacco practice is an evolving problem in Pakistan, high smoking rates contribute to a substantial number of early deaths, high healthcare costs and lost productivity.

He also added that tobacco consumption is not only a health issue. It has serious repercussions on poverty and economic stability, child development, child education, child labour and in many cases; it becomes a child protection issue as well. The government needs to remain steadfast to overcome any challenges thrown by big tobacco industry in order to safeguard Pakistani children from harms of tobacco.