Tobacco control: the sad story of neglect

Government officials working in the field of tobacco control produced a rosy picture for submission to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which is scheduled for the next hearing. Sue motto notice taken in view of the sluggish implementation of tobacco control decree, reliable sources informed “The News.”

Pakistan has taken singular for reversal of tobacco epidemic in the past few years. All these efforts have been abandoned and terminated due to lack of political commitment, and the growing influence of the tobacco industry on the other.

Never in the past was the Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) is a toothless organization, as it has become in the post-transfer era, following its merger with the Academy of Medical Services (HSA). Founded on July 1, 2007 to fulfill the country’s obligations set out in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), TCC has been tasked to intensify efforts to combat tobacco use, in consultation with the provinces, and to ensure that Pakistan fulfills its international obligations accordance with the FCTC. SC can not be said that all these obligations have been completely thrown into a forced marriage TCC-HSA.

In an interview with “News”, the experts noted that, since the HSA itself was formed under the law, TCC can not be combined with the Academy as both different terms of reference. While HSA is an educational and research institution, TCC has a legislative function to perform. Thus, the merger is an attempt to weaken DTN Cell.

TCC was created in a joint secretary level Director General (sale) as part of it, and had a budget of two Assistant Directors General (ADG), as well as support staff. As of June 1, 2011, it was merged with HSA and the government staff working for her was returned to their parents or other departments of the ministries. Bloomberg-funded project staff working full-time on tobacco control was moved single room hostel boys from HSA. Shortly after its merger with HSA (which was under the Ministry of inter-provincial coordination), then Secretary of the IPC was the project manager for tobacco control for up to four months.

October 26, 2011, TCC, along with the HSA, was located with the Cabinet Division, the executive director of HSA cell header and Coordinator for the fight against tobacco use. Initially, DG and ADG was match positions while these items only HSA special or stop gap. In addition, TCC shift from one department to another, not only undermines its effectiveness, and also made it much easier for the tobacco industry to capture a bigger market for their products in Pakistan. The only way forward to unlocking this TCC is its position in accordance with the federal government, with all public employees, including full-time DG-Development and Deputy Director-General has been appointed for the accelerated implementation of anti-smoking regulations.

Lack of funds was another factor that played a key role in destabilizing the TCC. June 7, 2010 The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) defunct Ministry of Health approved the PC-1 for two years the National Tobacco Control is programmed, which was scheduled to begin in July 2010 with a budget of Rs59.75 million. “Despite the claims of PC-1 and the distribution of funds, AGPR not release the funds, keeping in mind the decision of planning and development, see memo dated September 24, 2010,” a credible source.

Acting on another important front in 2010, the government made mandatory for the tobacco industry to print graphic health warnings (PHWs) on all cigarette packages sold, manufactured and imported in Pakistan. The initiative is seen as a breakthrough in the national and global levels, with the country winning awards for politics. The holiday, however, was short-lived. PHWs were rotated on an annual basis as required. In fact, Pakistan was the only country in the world where PHWs, disappeared after their introduction, earning the country a shameful distinction.

On February 6, 2012 the Cabinet Division circulated a draft regulatory order (SRO) of the new PHW all principal secretaries, with instructions that the same will be published at the provincial level. The Chief Secretary said that the federal government to follow suit. Responding to the letter, the two provincial governments  issued the new SRO with the new PHW on March 13 and 17, 2012, respectively. The federal government, however, was not done so to this date. To add insult to injury, the tobacco industry is currently reportedly pressurizing on the provincial government to de-notify the SRO. It’s time for the federal government to issue SRO without further delay.

Except for one achievement which Pakistan tobacco giant was found guilty on trial for violating the anti-smoking legislation, flagrant violations by the tobacco industry, as it uses every opportunity to promote their product murderers while TCC sleep?

The expediency, with which the current government has allowed roll-back of efforts made in the past, should not go unnoticed. Instead of increasing their commitment to further strengthen the TCC, an important public health issue has been placed on the background to placate the tobacco industry at the cost of public health.

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