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Over 1,200 Kids Start Smoking Every Day in Pakistan, Experts Warn

ISLAMABAD: Anti-tobacco experts revealed on Friday that more than 1,200 children start smoking daily in Pakistan, highlighting the urgent need for stakeholder intervention.

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) hosted a special discussion on World Tobacco Day with the theme “Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference.”

Syed Ali Wasif Naqvi, SDPI’s Head of Policy, Advocacy, and Outreach, presented 2022 data showing over 37 million adolescents worldwide (ages 13-15) use tobacco. In Europe, 11.5% of boys and 10.1% of girls in this age group are tobacco users. Naqvi noted the alarming trend in Pakistan, where electronic cigarettes and nicotine products are increasingly popular in schools and universities. He pointed out that the tobacco industry targets young people to replace lost customers, using appealing products and advertising on social media.

Dr. Amina Khan, Executive Director of The Initiative, stated that one in three tobacco users die if they don’t quit, with 1,200 Pakistani children (ages 6-15) starting smoking daily. She emphasized the need to update policies to address new tobacco products like vapes and smokeless tobacco, which are not covered by current laws. She called for stricter enforcement on the sale of single cigarettes and tobacco advertisements, and for youth involvement in policy-making.

Dr. Minhaj us Siraj, CEO of Health Syndicate, highlighted the issue of child labor in tobacco fields, preventing kids from attending school. He also mentioned the health risks associated with “green leaf disease” and stressed the importance of civil society support.

Dr. Waseem Janjua, SDPI Research Fellow, said the tobacco industry uses deceptive ads to attract young people, noting that $7.62 billion is spent annually on tobacco advertising in the US alone, illustrating the scale of the problem.

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