SPARC’s Dialogue with Policy Makers on Tobacco Tax without Sharing their Names & Views with Press

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Muzaffarabad/AJK : 19 Jan 2023 -There’s a dire need to adopt a sustainable National Tobacco Control Policy which ensures that no anti-child move is made now or in future. These views by shared in a dialogue organized by Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) with policy makers to stress upon the need of implementing strict tobacco control measures to save Pakistani children and youth from the pandemic of tobacco. Key legislators from all political parties attended this event and supported the notion of increasing tobacco taxation and implementing other measures. A press release by the NGO stated.
The names and views of POLICY MAKERS have not been shared by the SPARC but their picture accompanied with the press release. The concerned person was approached for names but he did not share and said, ” We will share the names in a separate handout.” (Most of them are not policy makers now because their resignations have been accepted by the Speaker)
At the same time, he said, ” We do not share names for Tobacco industry can approach them.”
It is quite interesting to know this policy of the SPARC about the policy makers. When you share the picture then what is the purpose of not sharing the names. Tobacco industry can recognize the Policy Makers from their picture released with the press release.
Moreover, if Tobacco Industry is not informed about the views of the Policy Makers, how the industry would stand warned and correct itself? 
If the names and views of policy makers are not shared what different you have done by taking them from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad with travel, stay, dine expenditures there? Because the new thing or news worthy thing is only, who from the Policy Makers attended the dialogue and what he/she said. The views of the Heads of the NGOs are already known and published dozens of times.
Here are the comments of the participants other than the policy makers. Dr. Ziauddin Islam – Former Technical Head/Director, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of NHSR&C shared that in Pakistan, smokers have reached up to 31 million. 466 people die daily in Pakistan due to tobacco induced diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and chronic lung diseases. Around 1200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day. To overcome this loss of life and healthcare resources, Tobacco Healthy Levy Bill which is pending since 2019 must be approved immediately. The policymakers agreed that Health Levy Bill must be presented in Parliament and implemented across the country as it is a sustainable solution to decrease tobacco consumption and generate finances for healthcare schemes.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), stated that due to cheap and easy affordability of tobacco products, the economic cost of smoking in Pakistan is PKR 615.07 billion which is equal to 1.6% of Pakistan’s GDP but the revenue generated from the tobacco industry is only 20% of the total cost. Evidence suggests that higher cigarette taxes deter smoking initiation, reduce cigarette consumption, and even lead smokers to quit. He added that last year Pakistan raised tobacco taxes for the first time since 2019 however we are still far off from by the 30% increase suggested by World Health Organization. Policymakers supported these remarks and agreed to raise voice for increase in tobacco taxation as per Pakistan’s international commitments and increase in inflation.
Sophia Mansoori, Program Coordinator CTFK said that if the traditional forms weren’t enough, tobacco industry has launched novel products (nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco devices) which are openly sold to youth through point-of-sales advertising and extensive social media campaigns. There’s a need to ban all forms of novel products immediately before our youth becomes addicted to them. The policymakers agreed to support SPARC and its partners in this regard through legislative measures which are missing at the moment.
The policymakers also unanimously agreed with the closing remarks of Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager SPARC. Khalil mentioned that in 2022 Pakistani children were hit badly with climate change, viral diseases, and poor nutrition due to inflation. We can’t afford to put their health in any further risk. There’s a need for all relevant duty barriers to work in tandem and support implementation of a sustainable tobacco control policy which covers implementation of Tobacco Health Levy, Increase in Taxation and Graphical Health Warning, Ban in Novel tobacco Products, and Zero Sales of Tobacco Products near educational institutions.

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