Pakistan can lead the way in tobacco harm reduction

KARACHI    -   Despite being a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Pakistan, with a population of over 241.5 million, struggles with high smoking prevalence.Several countries have successfully reduced smoking rates by adopting Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategies. For instance, New Zealand has effectively integrated THR into its national policy, resulting in a 50% decrease in smoking levels between 2018 and 2023 to fewer than 7% of daily smokers. While scientific evidence suggests that THR products such as vapes and oral nicotine pouches are significantly less harmful, Pakistan’s regulatory framework does not reflect this disparity.

Hence, government support for THR initiatives can lead to substantial benefits, including lower healthcare costs. According to a report titled “Integrating Harm Reduction into Tobacco Control,” embracing less harmful alternatives could drastically reduce smoking prevalence in Pakistan from 34.3% to 8% by 2045 and to 5% by 2060. Long-term, evidence-based solutions rooted in THR principles are essential for addressing smoking in Pakistan. Recognizing the diversity of smokers’ preferences, it is crucial to offer alternatives that reduce harm.Therefore, policymakers should invest in independent research to develop strategies tailored to country’s specific needs.

Launching campaigns to educate the public about the reduced risks of THR products is crucial. Engaging with global experts to learn from successful THR strategies and adapting them to Pakistan would further enhance these efforts. Involving healthcare professionals andencouraging their active participation would be immensely beneficial as well. They can provide credible information, educate the public, and address any misconceptions or concerns, thereby allowing smokers to make informed decisions.

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