The Alternative Research Initiative (ARI) is urging the Tobacco Control Cell of the Government of Pakistan to devise a comprehensive plan for achieving a completely smoke-free Pakistan. ARI emphasizes the importance of consulting every segment of society to address the persistent threat to public health posed by smoking.
Smoking remains a significant public health concern in Pakistan, with the number of tobacco users rising from 23.9 million in 2014 to a staggering 31 million today, including 17 million smokers.
Arshad Ali Syed, the head of ARI, notes that developed countries globally are striving to eradicate smoking entirely. He believes that Pakistan can achieve this goal within the next ten years by taking immediate and crucial steps, starting with facilitating accessible smoking cessation services.
Syed underscores the necessity of aiding adult smokers who, despite their efforts, struggle to quit. Unfortunately, smoking cessation services are currently nonexistent in Pakistan. In line with global efforts, the goal is for a country to be deemed smoke-free when the percentage of adult smokers falls below five percent.
Syed points to Sweden’s success in reducing its smoking rate from 15.6% to 5.6% over 15 years, emphasizing the role of less harmful alternative tobacco products, known as Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR). He urges the Pakistani government to incorporate tobacco harm reduction into its tobacco control initiatives.
Syed emphasizes that eliminating smoking requires concerted efforts from all sections of society. While tobacco control efforts in Pakistan are primarily geared towards reducing smoking rates, Syed calls for a shift towards a comprehensive approach, aligning with global strategies for total smoking cessation.
For Pakistan to achieve a smoke-free status, ARI advocates for the Tobacco Control Cell to initiate dialogues with all stakeholders, particularly smokers, taking the crucial first step towards a smoke-free Pakistan.