Health advocates calls to all sectors to help stop marketing tactics of tobacco

Anti tobacco activists during a press conference in Islamabad. PHOTO: Javed A. Malik

ISLAMABAD: Health advocates call on all sectors to help stop marketing tactics of tobacco and related industries that prey on children. Sabeen Khan Gul, Spokesperson to CM Punjab and Member Punjab Assembly told media that Tobacco companies are deliberately using “deadly” tactics to target children and get them hooked on smoking in Pakistan. The cigarette firms were still trying out all manner of ways to get youngsters lighting up and it was not accidental that the vast majority of smokers indulge in the activity before they turn 18. We need to expose the industry marketing to save our future. She was speaking at press conference organized by Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) in Islamabad.

Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Representative, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) told the media that tobacco companies have decades of experience marketing their products to kids and teens. From ad campaigns to product placement, Big Tobacco has spent big bucks on getting kids to start smoking. Tactics are deceptive and gloss over the fact that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the World. The truth is that the tobacco industry needs kids to start smoking to make up for the adults that die from tobacco-related disease.

He further added that the major tobacco companies now spend $9.1 billion per year nearly $25 million every day to promote their products, and many of their marketing efforts directly reach kids in world.

Khalil Ahmed, Manager Research & Communication, SPARC said that it is the result of different marketing tactics of tobacco industry that despite a ban on electronic and print media advertisement, tobacco consumption is not decreasing in Pakistan, around 1,200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day. In addition to that, Pakistan’s tobacco control legislation consists of certain loopholes. Therefore, the sellers use this as an opportunity and use tactics including products near candies or toys, discounts and free samples, display products at child’s eye level without any health warnings. They make the tobacco products cheap and easily accessible to the children. Also they make the appearance appealing to the children.

Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman, Secretary General, Pakistan National Heart Association said that every year tobacco companies in Pakistan cause millions of rupees worth damage to the public health system by violating the promotion, advertisement and sponsorship laws. He further added tobacco companies are promoting their products through catchy displays and distributing free packets in vicinity of educational institutions and parks to attract the youth into becoming regular customers.

Murtaza Solangi, Senior Journalist mentioned that the government can’t escape its responsibility by saying that it has banned electronic and print media advertisement, and point-of-sale branding. Laws do exist in Pakistan but the negligence in implementation and the loopholes has made the children easy prey for the tobacco industry.