Islamabad – Indus Hospital & Health Network (IHHN) has launched Voices Against Tobacco (VAT) – an initiative to create a dialogue about the need for meaningful change to improve tobacco control measures in Pakistan. VAT willengage Pakistan’syouth to promote positive culturalchange amongst their peers and communities by empowering them to take ownership of their health and future.
In collaboration with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids,VAT will invest in school children by conducting capacity-building exercises in tobacco control. Trainingsare being carried outat the Islamabad/Rawalpindi campuses of the Punjab Group of Colleges. Teachers areparticipating in an integrated workshop on all aspects of the VAT campaign and thestudent training module. Theyare then training their students on tobacco hazards, control measures and leadership skills, enabling them to become advocacy champions in their communities.
Tobacco control advocacy is combatted by intense lobbying by the tobacco industry. A de facto advocacy coalition must include the medical community, civil society organizations, youth groups, academic institutions, public health professionals and policy makers.
“VAT is a direct response to the need for a tobacco control coalition in Pakistan,” said Dr. Saima Saeed, pulmonologist and Director of the IHHN Lung Health Program. “The objective of this is simple – to provide a common platform for tobacco advocates to amalgamate and support initiatives against tobacco use.”
According to a Global Youth Tobacco Survey, about 1,200 children in Pakistan between the age of 6 – 15 years start smoking every day. Tobacco use can cause severe health issues, from nicotine addiction to impaired lung growth and function, heart disease and cancers. These health concerns can follow young people for the rest of their lives.
Tobacco products are cheap, easily available and sometimes thought to be ‘cool,’ making them both accessible and desirable for young people. The World Health Organization (WHO)reports that a 10% increase in prices would reduce tobacco use in teenagers by 18.3%. Because the youth are more sensitive to the cost of goods, making tobacco products less affordable is likely to impact their consumption directly.
“As a signatory of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Pakistan has a mandate to raise prices through increased taxation yet there has been little change in the complex tobacco tax structure in recent years,” said Malik Imran, Country Representative for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
For the last 14 years, IHHN has worked to improve the health and livelihoods of communities across Pakistan to improve Pakistan’s health indicators. With Pakistan having a growing youth population, IHHN places utmost importance on protecting the health, well-being, and livelihood of Pakistani youth, for their future and the country’s future. Moreover, through various youth initiatives, IHHN reinforces its commitment to empowering the youth to be champions of their own destiny.