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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Health Activists Call for Ban on Innovative Tobacco Products to Safeguard Pakistan’s Future

YouthHealth Activists Call for Ban on Innovative Tobacco Products to Safeguard Pakistan's Future

ISLAMABAD: During the launch ceremony of “Big Tobacco – Tiny Targets,” a survey conducted by the Society for Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) in collaboration with Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), health activists passionately called on the government to impose a ban on innovative products like nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco devices. This urgent demand stems from the need to protect Pakistan’s future generation. The survey aimed to scrutinize the sale and advertising patterns of these innovative tobacco products across nine cities in Pakistan.

The survey revealed that all points of sale were selling innovative tobacco products around points of interest for youth. These products, mainly nicotine pouches, are displayed at visible eye level for children and placed beside candies, sweets, and toys to appeal to children and youth. Vendors also utilize sales techniques such as discounted products, free samples, gifts, and competition entries to attract customers.

Chief Guest Mr. Mahesh Kumar Malani, Minister of State for Health Services Regulations & Coordination, Government of Pakistan, said that Pakistan’s children are its assets. The basic dangers of tobacco are known to everyone, but this research is a great effort because it explores the harms of advertising as well. In the future, this will help us minimize the harms of tobacco. The government is committed to the protection and well-being of Pakistani children and will work with all stakeholders to ensure that anti-child policies will not be implemented in the country.

Guest of Honor Dr. Shazia Sobia Soomro, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation & Coordination mentioned that this research is an eye-opener for everyone as Pakistan’s children are bombarded with marketing and have easy accessibility to addictive nicotine products around their educational and recreational facilities. This research will help us come up with ways to protect our children from the harms of tobacco.

Ms. Khalida Ahmed, Member Board of Directors of SPARC, appreciated SPARC for conducting Tiny Targets. She said that rising tobacco use is a huge issue in Pakistan. She mentioned that due to the cheap and easy affordability, nearly 1200 children begin smoking every day in Pakistan. We can’t afford any more children getting addicted to these new products. By continuously reviewing and updating Pakistan’s tobacco control legislation as it relates to tobacco industry advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, the advertisements can be banned. She mentioned that municipal authorities should license tobacco vendors and establish exclusive tobacco shops where only tobacco products are sold. This will reduce exposure to tobacco products by children and non-users who do not frequently visit such stores.

Ms. Sana Jamali, Member, Senate of Pakistan, said that this research will help the government recognize the dangers of innovative tobacco products before it is too late. The government must ban all addictive nicotine products and strengthen Pakistan’s tobacco control legislation to include a ban on all forms of advertising for these products. The tobacco industry has already misled the government by claiming that e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches are less harmful and only for smokers who want to quit. However, these products are openly promoted online and sold to young and new consumers.

Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager at SPARC, revealed that the Tiny Targets survey was conducted in various cities, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Bahawalpur, and Hyderabad. The surveyors gathered data from vendors operating within a 100-meter radius of schools, universities, hostels, playgrounds, parks, cinemas, shopping malls, indoor gaming/entertainment centers, and restaurants.

The event garnered the attendance of parliamentarians, civil society members, health activists, journalists, and youth, all of whom applauded SPARC’s dedicated efforts and expressed their unwavering commitment to supporting the cause of making Pakistan tobacco-free.

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