ISLAMABAD: A large number of people, especially the youth, are suffering from the deadly effects of tobacco, and the tobacco industry has brought new and more destructive products into the market. We must do everything possible to protect our youth from these tobacco industry tactics. This was said by the speakers while addressing an international conference organized by Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) on the tobacco industry’s advanced tactics for deceiving youth and policymakers, which was organized at a local hotel in Islamabad.
The Chief Guest of the event was Member Legislative Assembly Zahra Wadood Fatemi. Among the guests were PANAH President Major General (retd) Masood ur Rahman Kiaani, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Country Head, Malik Imran Ahmed, Executive Director of Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology Dr. Anjum Jalal, National Commission on the Rights of Child Chairperson Afshan Tahseen Bajwa, representative of PIDE, Colonel Dr. Shakeel Ahmed Mirza, President of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Afzal Butt, Health Economist Ijaz Akbar and a large number of civil society, youth and journalists participated. The event was hosted by Panah Secretary General Sanaullah Ghumman.
Ms. Zahra Fatemi said that we have to protect our children and youth who are the future of the nation from the ravages of tobacco. Panah is working for a great cause that every segment of society should stand with. General Masood ur Rehman Kiani said that Panah has been trying to save its countrymen from the heart and related diseases for the last 40 years. Smoking is one of the leading causes of heart disease, cancer and many other diseases. We are working on a mission to educate the nation about the dangers of tobacco. Malik Imran Ahmad, Country Head of Tobacco-Free Kids said that tobacco has already badly taken hold of our young generation. Now there are new products in the market in the form of Velo and heating tobacco products. These products are marketed in very attractive packaging and are available in many flavors. We reject the legislation of these items. Dr. Anjum Jalal while talking about the harms of tobacco said it is one of the major causes of heart and many other diseases. He said that there has been an alarming increase in heart diseases among children and one of the main reasons for this is parental smoking and secondhand smoking. Colonel Shakeel Ahmad Mirza said that Pakistan has become a hotbed of diseases at present, one of the main reasons for which is the availability of tobacco products at very low prices, instead of the government removing tobacco products from the reach of the public, it legalizes new products. Afshan Tahsin Bajwa said that the biggest target of the tobacco industry is children. The industry pays special attention to educational institutions so that more and more of their children can be accustomed to them. In stores, they are placed exclusively with items that interest children and youth. There is no warning sign on them that these products are harmful to health. Ejaz Akbar said that the industry claims that it pays taxes of Rs 114 billion annually, while the annual expenditure on tobacco-related diseases is estimated at more than Rs 615 billion. This proves that the revenue generated by the tobacco industry is negligible compared to the costs incurred on the diseases caused by it. Afzal Butt said that Panah’s efforts to save the youth from the dangers of tobacco are commendable and we are with Panah as the front line. Pakistan’s journalist community rejects the legalization of new tobacco products. Dr. Zia said that there are more than 2.2 million people in Pakistan who are addicted to smoking. Our youths are also getting addicted to drugs, one of the main reasons being the misuse of CSR. Through this, the industry indirectly attracts children by advertising its products.
Sanaullah Ghumman said that every day around 1200 children start smoking. PANAH is an effort to educate people on the harms of smoking and reduce its use. The industry has now brought new heating tobacco products to the market in collaboration with the government. Now it has been legalized. Smoking is the first step toward drug addiction. We reject the heating tobacco Products legislation. Today we jointly demand government along with health professionals, students, journalists and other segments of society to reverse its legislation on heating tobacco products and do not give priority to tobacco industry interests over the health of the children.