By: Our Correspondent
ISLAMABAD: Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) held a press conference on “Implementing Plain Packaging of Cigarettes as a Tobacco Control Measure” at National Press Club Islamabad.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Representative, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) mentioned that plain packaging eliminates the dangerous effects of tobacco packaging as a form of advertising and promotion. Tobacco companies use attractive colors and designs, and appealing characters to attract new customers especially children and females. These things ensure brand loyalty and boost sales, and mislead consumers about the harsh realities and danger of tobacco use.
Mr. Khalil Ahmed, Manager Research & Communication, SPARC told to media that branding on tobacco products is one of many deceptive tactics of the big tobacco industry. Every year tobacco companies in Pakistan cause billions of rupees deficit to the national exchequer by enjoying low taxes, underreporting their production, over reporting the percentage of illicit trade, and violating the promotion, advertisement and sponsorship laws. He further said that it is result of this branding that despite a ban on electronic and print media advertisement, tobacco consumption is not decreasing in Pakistan. He mentioned that according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2015, around 1,200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day.
Dr. Javaid A. Khan, Professor Medicine, Aga Khan University Hospital said that tobacco companies on one hand say that plain packaging and graphical health warnings don’t decrease tobacco consumption but on the other hand these companies try to block every move in support of implementation of these laws which have scientific evidence to support them.
Mr. Azhar Saleem, CEO, Human Development Foundation (HDF) said that plain packaging is included in guidelines to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). He further mentioned that 16 countries have adopted tobacco plain packaging laws, and many other governments are in the process of formally considering the policy. However, despite being a signatory to this convention, Pakistan has not made any efforts towards legalizing plain packaging of tobacco products.
Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman, Secretary General, Pakistan National Heart Association shared the findings of ‘Big Tobacco, Tiny Targets’ a 2018 study conducted by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), Human Development Foundation (HDF), and Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH). The report revealed that tobacco companies are promoting their products through catchy displays and distributing free packets at points of sales around primary and secondary schools to attract the youth in becoming regular customers.