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Anti-tobacco bill in limbo in KP

Anti-tobacco bill in limbo in KP

PESHAWAR: A bill meant to restrict production, trade and consumption of tobacco and reduce smoking-related illnesses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been in limbo since September 2016 in the face of resistance by people related with the business of cash crop.

Never has any of several bills presented in provincial assembly faced delay as has the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Prohibition of Smoking/Tobacco Products and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Bill, 2016.

The bill was tabled in the assembly more than six months ago. It was referred to select committee for consideration after farmers from tobacco-growing areas showed reservations over it.

Sources said that the law became a story of the past because the growers and manufacturers of cigarettes saw the law as a check on their businesses.

They said that the committee was required to hold discussion on the law and send it back to the assembly for passage but it was put in cold storage owing to the influence of people, who were destined to lose cash from the crop.

In some districts like Mansehra and Swabi, finest tobacco is produced and it is exported by tobacco companies.

“Therefore, there is tough resistance to the proposed law either to stop it completely or insert some amendments in it,” sources said.

They added that farmers and manufactures were united to oppose the piece of legislation for fear of decline in sale of tobacco products.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) provided technical assistance in drafting the law.

However, it seems difficult that the law will be presented in the assembly. Sources said that stakeholders hoped that government would takes into account their concerns about losing business and production, trade and manufacturing would continue as usual.

The WHO has been supporting its member countries to restrict use of tobacco to save people from different types of cancers but farmers have threatened to revert to opium production if the government proceeds with the law.

The world health agency wants the government to initiate steps against use of tobacco including cigarettes, paan, gutka and naswar as Pakistan had rectified the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2014, which calls for legal measures against production and sale of tobacco.

Sources said that some lawmakers related to tobacco business were also members of the select committee, which was supposed to review the law because the government had already assured that no major amendment would be incorporated into it.

“The draft law restricts sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in shops located close to schools and colleges, public places and bans advisement by manufacturers of tobacco products,” said sources.

They said that health department in collaboration with WHO had begun work on drafting the new law in 1914.

The bill was sent to provincial assembly after its vetting and evaluation by law department for approval.

The health department also faced problems in drafting the law.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2017

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