Over 1200 youth opt smoking per day in Pakistan needs stakeholders attention: Experts

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ISLAMABAD, May 31 (DNA): Anti tobacco experts said that over 1200 youth opt smoking per day in Pakistan which needs special attention of stakeholders.

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Friday organized a special stakeholder discussion on World Tobacco Day being observed under the theme Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference.

Syed Ali Wasif Naqvi, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Outreach, SDPI in his presentation said as per the 2022 data, over 37 million adolescents aged 13-15 globally use tobacco. “In the WHO European Region, 11.5 percent of boys and 10.1 percent of girls in this age group are tobacco users. Notably, electronic cigarettes and nicotine pouches are increasingly popular among youth, with 12.5 percent of adolescents in the European Region using e-cigarettes in 2022 compared to 2 per cent of adults,” he said.

Naqvi mentioned that with over 1200 children initiating tobacco use daily in Pakistan, and permeation of electronic tobacco and nicotine products in schools, colleges, and universities, the statistics from Pakistan are even more alarming.
The tobacco industry, he said, targets youth to replace millions of customers lost annually to death or cessation. The industry employs appealing products and advertising tactics aimed at children and adolescents, using social media and streaming platforms, he added.

Dr Amina Khan, Executive Director, The Initiative, said, “Generally 1 out of 3 people die of tobacco who do not quit tobacco use or smoking, whereas 1200 children between the age of 6-15 start smoking every day in Pakistan. Two out of five adult smokers start smoking at the age of 10 which rings alarm bells for all to start focusing on the toddlers.”

She noted that the policy and implementation of Pakistan was ranked very well globally whereas it should be kept abreast with the emerging trends of the tobacco industry as modern products like vapes, velo, and smokeless tobacco products are introduced that don’t fall under the legislation.

To protect youth, she said the availability of single cigarettes, advertisement, and prevention needs to be given a high priority in the enforcement, policy, and awareness endeavours.

“Youth engagement in policy-making is important to devise policy actions that are well guided and properly conceived in line with the ground realities to bear optimum results,” she added.
Dr Minhaj us Siraj, CEO Health Syndicate, said the tobacco industry was engaging with children through labour in the tobacco fields, whereas those kids were not able to enter schools to acquire education for life. He also mentioned “green leaf disease”. He added that without the civil society’s support no achievement in this cause was possible.

Dr Waseem Janjua, Research Fellow, SDPI, said the tobacco industry uses misleading tactics through advertisements promoting tobacco products that were trapping the innocent youth of the country.

He said according to a study in the US, the tobacco industry was pumping in $7.62 billion in lieu of tobacco promoting advertisements that indicated the massive magnitude of capital investment to mislead masses on smoking.