tobacco industry agree on removing pubs ISLAMABAD: Though there was a stark difference between the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), representatives from the civil society organisations and the tobacco industry, the one point on which both had a consensus was removing the words ‘pubs and dance clubs’ from the bill.
During the meeting of the Senate Subcommittee on National Health Services on Monday, the committee members observed that the suggestion in the ‘Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health (Amendment) Bill 2016’ that there should be a complete ban on smoking and advertisements in pubs and dance clubs was irrelevant. They said ‘pubs and dance clubs’ did not legally exist in the country. The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) informed the subcommittee that the tobacco industry and anti-tobacco organisations had totally opposite points of view on the bill being discussed by the committee.
The tobacco industry believed that there was no need for a new legislation as the existing laws were comprehensive. However, civil society organisations were of the view that drafting a new law was mandatory.
The main focus of the bill, tabled by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed of the PML-Q, is on putting a complete ban on tobacco advertisements. It says even retailers should not be allowed to advertise the tobacco products inside their shops because the youth were attracted by these advertisements.
Moreover, the bill suggests that tobacco companies should not be allowed to sponsor corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives such as health camps, plantation campaigns, sports events, etc.
During the previous meeting held on September 22, the subcommittee had directed the ministry to hold consultations with stakeholders and brief the committee on what points they had a consensus.
Additional Secretary NHS Dr Mohammad Hashim on Monday informed the committee at a meeting chaired by Senator Nauman Wazir that the tobacco industry and the civil society organisations had totally opposite points of view.
“The industry claims that there is a need to implement the existing laws in letter and spirit instead of making new laws. On the other hand, NGOs believe that it was the obligation of the country to further strengthen the laws against tobacco,” Dr Hashim said. A representative of the tobacco industry said tobacco was the most regulated industry which completely observed the ban on advertisements.
“There is a need to enforce the existing laws. Moreover, smuggling of tobacco products should also be checked because the government is facing financial losses due to smuggling,” he said.
The head of The Network for Consumer Protection, Nadeem Iqbal, who assisted in drafting the bill, said under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) it is the obligation of the government to enhance restrictions on the tobacco industry.
“There is no law in the country which would be violated in case a restriction was put on the CSR activities. On the other hand, FCTC clearly says that CSR activities cannot be carried out by the tobacco industry,” he said.
An official of the ministry, requesting not to be quoted, said the members of the committee for the first time heard all the points which were against the use of tobacco and seemed convinced that tobacco was hazardous for the new generation.