Earlier this week, Mr. Navid Ahmed Shaikh, Commissioner Karachi Division, directed his seven deputy commissioners to create district implementation and monitoring committees (DIMCs) and tobacco control cells (TCCs) in each of their respective districts. DIMCs and tobacco control cells are absolutely integral to effective tobacco control, enabling tobacco control enforcement actions and signaling key support and commitment from senior government officials. The announcement and directive came just before World No Tobacco Day, which falls on 31 May.
With over 16 million people, Karachi is Pakistan’s largest city and its economic hub. Last March, The Union launched the Smoke Free Karachi initiative as part of its Global Implementation Programme. Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Programme supports cities in four countries—China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan—facilitating efforts to implement urban tobacco control laws. The smokefree work in Pakistan began in Islamabad Capital Territory in 2015 and Punjab province in 2018; both now have highly effective DIMCs.
Pakistan banned smoking in public places and required signage with “no smoking” language in its 2002 law, “the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002,” but compliance remained quite low. In Karachi in November 2019, a Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health compliance survey found that across public places in Karachi’s East and South districts, compliance was only 57 percent. The Smoke Free Karachi initiative set an ambitious goal to increase this figure to 85 percent.
At the programme launch, The Union announced enforcement support for two of the city’s districts, and then Commissioner Mr. Iftikhar Shalwani pledged to implement the programme in the remaining five districts. The establishment of the DIMCs in all seven districts is testament to this on-going commitment from Karachi’s leadership. Over the past fourteen months, important achievements have been made in building the systems needed for effective tobacco control law enforcement and raising public awareness of the law.
“This important development will first enable successes from two model districts—the East and South—to be replicated across the city,” said Kathy Wright, Program Manager of The Union’s Global Implementation Programme. “At the macro level, the DIMCs will accelerate Pakistan’s journey to effectively implement tobacco control laws across the whole country.”
The decision to create DIMCs across Karachi city can be partly attributed to the tireless work of Syed Jawwad Muzaffar, Additional Commissioner, Karachi, who also serves as the focal person for tobacco control Karachi. After successful tobacco control work in Islamabad Capital Territory, the Additional Commissioner was motivated to replicate that city’s smokefree model in Karachi.
“For those of us who have been in the battle, this is really a remarkable achievement,” said Dr. Minhaj us-Siraj, Director of the Tobacco Smoke Free Cities Initiative. “Smoke Free Karachi was really just a dream until the end of 2018, but we persevered, and in just over two years, we’ve brought Pakistan infinite steps closer to being a country that protects its population from second-hand smoke.”
On 24 May, WHO announced that Pakistan’s Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination was among the World No Tobacco Day 2021 winners. The Union joins WHO in congratulating the Tobacco Control Cell on this tremendous, well deserved achievement.