Supporting the decision to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and vapes to minors in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Alternative Research Initiative (ARI) reiterated its call for sensibly regulating tobacco harm-reduction products in Pakistan.

“Under no circumstances should young people and minors have access to these products,” said Arshad Ali Syed, Project Director of ARI. However, he added that unless regulations are developed, there is a strong possibility of misuse. “There are around 400 outlets of THR products in major cities of the country, which are legally imported and sold. However, there are no clear regulations about them.”

He called for urgent regulations that should ensure that these products are only available to adult smokers who have been unable to quit combustible smoking.

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An official notification issued by the Home and Tribal Affairs Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said the decision has been taken in the wake of an alarming increase in the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and vaping devices particularly among children and youth in the province.

In this regard, Arshad added Pakistan can study and follow the regulations regarding vaping products in the UK. The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, which was amended in 2020, covered every aspect of vaping products, from restricting the capacity of e-cigarette tanks to labeling requirements and warnings.

He said the inclusion of health professionals – doctors – in recommending THR products for cessation for adult smokers should be an essential part of the regulations. He added that according to research, tobacco harm reduction reduces the damage caused by the toxins generated by tobacco combustion for adult smokers unable or unwilling to stop.

The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) recognizes harm reduction as an integral part of a comprehensive approach, but only about eliminating or reducing consumption.

“Bans seldom work. Pakistan has to weigh its options and opt for the advances in research on tobacco control. For the huge number of adult smokers, tobacco harm reduction products are an easy and accessible path to health and ultimately completely quitting.”

In the recent past, he said the successive governments have imposed taxes on tobacco harm reduction products but did not come up with comprehensive regulations. He said it is time for wider consultation with all stakeholders to ensure that these products help adult smokers reduce harm to their health and quit smoking.