The government has decided to impose ban on import of ‘Seesha’ and its use across Pakistan after seeking approval from the federal cabinet, well informed sources in Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Co-ordination.
Tobacco use is single largest preventable cause of death in the world. In Pakistan, tobacco is a cause of death of around 108,800 persons every year. The youth of Pakistan are being targeted through different means to smoke.
Around 1200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6 and 15 start smoking every day. Smoking tobacco in Pakistan is not limited to cigarette smoking only and recently ‘Sheesha’ (water pipe tobacco) has become fashionable among the Pakistani youth.
The rising trend of Seesha smoking among the youth could result in exponential increase in the number of diseases caused by tobacco use.
An Advisory note on ‘Seesha’ smoking issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that using a water pipe to smoke tobacco poses a serious health hazard to smokers and others exposed to the smoke emitted. A typical 1-hour long water pipe smoking session involves inhaling 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.
According to British Heart Foundation, traditionally ‘Sheesha’ tobacco contains cigarette tobacco so like cigarettes it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. As a result, ‘Sheesha’ smokers are at risk of the same kind of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.
“Even if we use tobacco-free Sheesha, we are still at risk from the carbon monoxide and any toxins in the coal or charcoal used to burn the ‘Sheesha’.
Therefore, Sheesha smoking in any form is hazardous,” the sources added. According to research study conducted by National Institute of Health, USA smoke from a non-tobacco water pipe preparation yields near identical amounts of carbon monoxide that contributes to cardiovascular disease, polyclinic aromatic hydrocarbons that cause cancer and volatile aldehydes that cause lung disease.
The Supreme Court of Pakistani in a suo motu case number 11 of 2006, in its order of May 4, 2016 has shown serious concern over the rampant and continuous use of Sheesha by the young generation and its harmful effects and directed the Federal Government to take steps to impose a complete ban on import of Sheesha in the country.
The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Co-ordination has sent a reference to the Commerce Ministry to impose complete ban on import of Sheesha as legislation as such policies are under the purview of the Commerce Ministry.
The stance was presented before the SC in June 2016 but the apex court showed dissatisfaction at the measures taken by the Government of Pakistan to combat the menace of Sheesha and to ban its import.
The apex court upon request of Deputy Attorney General of Pakistan (DAG) granted one month’s time to the federal government to ban the import of Sheesha. The apex court also directed to submit compliance report before the court duly signed by the relevant Secretary of the Federal Government. Subsequently, a proposal was again sent to the Commerce Ministry to impose complete ban on import of Sheesha in compliance with the directions of the SC.
In response, the Commerce Ministry suggested that since the issue needs amendment in the Import Policy Order, 2016 issued on April 18, 2016, therefore, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Co-ordination should send a summary directly to the ECC for imposing ban on import of Sheesha.
The sources said this issue was placed before the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on July 26, 2016 presided over by Finance Minister, Senator Ishaq Dar. However, the committee was of the view that amendment to the Import Policy Order is the domain of federal cabinet not the ECC directing the Health Ministry to submit the summary to the cabinet for approval.