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Students, activists protest for tobacco control

ISLAMABAD: Usman Naseer is an eighth grader who, on Wednesday, asked Prime Minister Shahid Khagan Abbasi to implement a government decision to enlarge pictorial warnings on cigarette packs because it would help his father quit smoking.

`My father is a chain smoker, and I am well aware that smoking will make him sick, and one day he may die.

I have been trying to convince him to quit smoking the premier can help me by implementing the government decision on increasing the size of pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets,` he told the media outside the National Press Club.

In January 2015, the government had announced that the size of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs would be increased from 45pc to 85pc, and the image would be replaced, but decision has not been implemented for over two years.

Usman Naseer, dressed in his school uniform, said a larger warning could help him convince his father to stop smoking.

`I love my father, and I don`t want him to suffer from diseases such as cancer, and die because of smoking,` he said. Another student, Asim Jamil, said that children who do not smoke themselves also suffer due to secondhand smoke because people around them smoke frequently.

`The government should implement its decision and tell the country it cares about people`s health, otherwisethe number of people suffering from cancer will increase across the country,` he said.

Tobacco control advocates and students were at the press club to demand the implementation of the law and legal action against violators of tobacco control laws.

Khurram Hashmi, the national coordinator of the Coalition for Tobacco Control, a coalition of over 250 civil society groups, told participants that the influential tobacco industry was the biggest obstacle to the law`s implementation.

`More than 100,000 people are dying annually due to tobacco consumption which means around 300 deaths of Pakistanis daily. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco is the only product in the world which kills its own consumers and its use is one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide. In Pakistan, smoking among youth is on the rise as the tobacco industry is dedicatedly targeting youth to sell its poisonous products,` he said.

FARZ Association representative Attaur Rehman said that under Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Pakistan is obligated to take a major step forward in the fight against tobacco.

Social Welfare Society Talagang President Fayyaz Ghara said the decision to enlarge the pictorial warning was evidence that the government wanted to protect public health, but it could not be implemented.

A Reporter