ISLAMABAD: Traditional measures for tobacco control have hit a plateau, that is why the right time has arrived to switch to far effective and globally accepted ‘tobacco harm reduction’ strategies if we wish to save more than 1.2 million precious lives in Pakistan. The spectrum of THR products reduce toxic exposures by 80% and reduce tobacco-related causes of premature death by 70%.
This was said by a renowned researcher and policy advisor Dr. Muhammad Rizwan Junaid here at a round table discussion titled ‘Break Thru Science’ with regard to integrated harm reduction into tobacco control, arranged by ‘Irada’ at a local hotel.
Referring to a research study launched in London, titled ‘Integrating Harm Reduction Into Tobacco Control Pakistan, South Africa, Bangladesh and Kazakhstan, Dr. Rizwan said, “This report aims at providing the policymakers and public health experts with estimates of the potential benefit of tobacco harm reduction.
Key findings of the study indicate that significant lives can be saved in countries like Pakistan, South Africa, Bangladesh and Kazakhstan through the widespread adoption of ‘tobacco harm reduction’ strategies and related measures regarding tobacco control policies.
By adopting THR strategies, Kazakhstan could prevent 165000 premature deaths in the next four decades, while South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan could save 320000, 920000, and 1200000 lives, respectively. “In Pakistan, the government already possesses the tools for transformation, it only needs to recognize that ‘tobacco harm reduction’ products which have already been used by 112 million people worldwide, are truly instrumental in resolving this crisis of national loss,” Dr. Rizwan concluded.
Dr. Rizwan further added that in the last two decades, remarkable progress has been made across the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceutical innovation and diagnostics led by private companies and supported in part by leading health research funders like the National Institutes of Health. The result is seen in terms of a range of THR products that have also met the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) criteria of being “appropriate for the protection of public health”, he added.
During the discussion health experts highlighted that various European countries have seen remarkable decrease in smoking figures due to successful implementation of tobacco harm reduction strategies. EU has declared goal of making its countries smoke free till 2040. According to international health experts, EU countries major focus is adopting tobacco harm reduction being proactively used to drive down smoking rates and significantly reduce smoking related mortality and morbidity.
During round table discussion, health experts urged the Government to consider adopting tobacco harm reduction strategies as part of tobacco control in public health regulatory frameworks. Regulations on nicotine products should be proportionate to the risk they pose to health and in ways that maximise benefits and make healthier choices as easy as possible.
It is pertinent to mention that ‘Irada’ is an initiative to recognize the important role ‘tobacco harm reduction’ has to play in minimizing the health impact of smoking in Pakistan.