ISLAMABAD: Alternative Research Initiative (ARI) has called upon the government to take a research-based approach to sensibly regulate the tobacco harm reduction products in Pakistan, as any knee reaction would lead to more damage to the cause of tobacco use.
"World is exploring evidence-based interventions to address the issue of tobacco use," said Arshad Ali Syed, head of ARI. He was commenting on a demand by tobacco control activists on legislation for regulating emerging products. He added that any legislative intervention on regulating THR products should be in the light of research in the countries such as UK, Sweden, and Japan.
With nearly 29 million tobacco users, Pakistan is considered one of the top 15 countries with a heavy burden of diseases because of combustible smoking. The total cost of all smoking attributable to diseases and deaths in Pakistan was 3.85 billion dollars in 2019.
Underlining the need to rely on independent data and research, he called for open dialogue on any new legal and administrative interventions in order to create a consensus. "We believe everyone, including parliamentarians, policymakers, civil society, researchers, journalists, tobacco industry and smokers, should be consulted. Only after listening to all sides, a national consensus should be developed on regulating THR products." Any legal or administrative intervention without developing a national consensus would only supplement the status quo on tobacco control in Pakistan, he said. "We need laws and policies owned by all stakeholders."
All policy interventions, he added, should be proportionate to adult smokers. "Pakistan currently has a large number of adult smokers who have been unable to quit. We support all efforts of the government of Pakistan in helping these smokers, but at the same time we would demand that THR should be part of Pakistan's tobacco control policies and plans." He said ARI backs THR products only for the adult smokers who are unable to give up smoking. Syed added there can be no two opinions on keeping young people away from all types of tobacco use and THR products. However, he regretted that because of weak implementation of tobacco law, smoking in youth is a major health issue in Pakistan.