The Alternative Research Initiative (ARI) is reaffirming Pakistan’s ambitious goal of achieving complete smoking cessation within the next decade. ARI’s project director, Arshad Ali Syed, emphasizes the need for collaborative efforts from federal and provincial governments, along with relevant partners, to make this goal a reality.
As of 2024, 13 percent of Pakistan’s population, approximately 31 million adults, use tobacco, with a significant portion being smokers. While developed nations globally are moving toward eradicating smoking, Pakistan aims to follow suit.
Syed acknowledges that, currently, there is limited legislation related to smoking in Pakistan, both at the federal and provincial levels. He urges provincial governments to enact comprehensive legislation focusing on tobacco harm reduction, easy access to smoking cessation services, and effective measures to eliminate smoking.
Highlighting a positive step, Syed mentions the government’s decision in February 2023 to increase the tax on domestically manufactured cigarette products by 150 percent. However, he stresses the need for further action, emphasizing the importance of making smoking cessation services easily accessible as part of human rights.
ARI asserts that complete smoking cessation in Pakistan is achievable within the next decade through research-based policies. Syed calls for the government to ensure the provision of effective facilities for quitting smoking, listen to smokers’ voices, and incorporate Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) into the national tobacco control policy.
What is Tobacco Harm Reduction?
The concept of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR), proposed by Michael Russell in 1976, centers on the understanding that people use tobacco for nicotine, while the health risks are primarily associated with ‘tar.’ T
his concept suggests that if smokers are provided with non-burning alternatives delivering nicotine, they can avoid the health risks associated with the smoke produced by burning tobacco, which contains tar and other harmful substances.