Unified for Pakistan’s future: Efforts in tobacco harm reduction

KARACHI   -   In the ongoing battle against the global smoking epidemic, collaborative efforts and innovative solutions are key to achieving a better future for all. One such initiative gaining traction worldwide is tobacco harm reduction, with heated tobacco products (HTPs) emerging as a promising alternative for adult smokers unwilling or unable to quit.

In Pakistan, where smoking prevalence remains high, addressing the challenges associated with smoking-related harm is of utmost importance. Each year, smoking claims the lives of over 160,000 individuals in the country.These alarming statistics underscore the urgent need for effective interventions to combat the smoking epidemic and reduce its devastating impact on public health.

One notable success story in the global adoption of heated tobacco products isJapan. In 2000, a remarkable 50 percent of all men and 33 percent of all adults in Japan were smokers. However, by 2015, a significant shift occurred. Cigarette sales started declining at a rate five times faster than in previous years, attributed to the widespread adoption of heated tobacco products.

The Japanese market serves as a unique example, characterized by strict regulations to ensure consumer health protection. The government’s authorization of HTPs further boosted consumer trust in these innovative products. A recent study conducted by the American Cancer Society monitored Japan’s experience with heated tobacco products, revealing a significant increase in smoking cessation rates and a decline in traditional cigarette sales. Moreover, South Korea, Italy, Germany, and Russia are among the other leading nations to have witnessed a substantial decrease in smoking rates with the acceptance ofHTPs.

Ali, a former smoker from Karachi, highlights the potential benefits of switching to HTPs. “I was a heavy smoker for years, and it was not until I faced serious health scares that I realized I needed to make a change. Switching to heated tobacco was a game-changer for me. Not only did it help me cut down on my cigarette consumption, but it also reduced the harm to my overall health,” Ali shares.

Pakistan has much to gain in terms of learning from the experience of countries like Japan and incorporating similar strategies into its regulatory framework. By promoting the adoption of HTPs, the country can make significant strides in reducing the burden of smoking-related harm and enhancing the overall well-being of its population. Pakistan can also reach out for diplomatic assistance and facilitate the exchange of knowledge by sending its healthcare professionals and policymakers to Japan to learn from their successful strategy.This measure can offer hope to several adult smokers, who find it challenging to quit but might discover relief and decreased harm by embracing HTPs.

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