Implementation of Tobacco Laws
Implementation of Tobacco Laws in Pakistan: An Insight
Tobacco control laws are not a new occurrence in Pakistan. The policies and laws have been in place since the early 1950s; however, the implementation of these laws has been skewed. Significant legal work in the domain of tobacco control started in 2002 when Pakistan adopted its first comprehensive National Tobacco Control law. Continuing its commitment to tobacco control and understanding its negative impacts on the citizens of the state, Pakistan signed the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004, though the adherence to this framework has been a challenge.
To meet the obligations under WHO-FCTC and to coordinate all matters relating to tobacco control, a federal Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) was formed under Ministry of Health. Despite the formation of the TCC and the devolution of powers to the provinces under a constitutional amendment (April 8th, 2010), the evidence reveals weak enforcement of laws at national level.
According to a study in Karachi on tobacco control laws and their implementation, there has been a decreasing trend in tobacco consumption in high-income countries as compared to low income and developing countries, where tobacco use continues to rise. This unfortunate trend can be attributed to the fact that tobacco industry has tried to overtake the market of developing countries as they failed to maintain their control in the developed world due to the stringent policies, tobacco control and high taxation in the west.
The study on tobacco control also found that Karachi, though the largest city and the industrial hub of Pakistan, has not been observing tobacco control laws to a satisfactory level. Non-adherence to the law in banks, offices, public transport vehicles, university campuses and restaurants of Karachi was found to be alarmingly high. Also, the sale of tobacco to minors/underage was found to be a common practice. The findings of the study demonstrate poor compliance with the tobacco control laws by tobacco companies. The availability of cigarette in two different types of packs, in many cases without pictorial and health label warnings, in direct breach of tobacco control laws has been a major concern.
To comply with the tobacco control laws and the FCTC framework, there is a desperate need to work on an implementation framework. Moreover, some other laws must be introduced to target the gap areas of the tobacco ordinance under which the sale of tobacco products through vending machines should also be banned. To increase the possibility of implementation, the results from the audit reports on tobacco control and illicit trade should be frequently shared and discussed in the parliament.