Islamabad: February 11, 2020 – Health is a top priority of the government and no one, under no circumstances, will be allowed to jeopardize the health of our children and youth. This was said by Dr Naushen Hamid, Federal Parliamentary Secretary, Federal Ministry of National Health during a media briefing session on “Encourage Ban on Advertisement of Tobacco Products” organized by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) in Islamabad. This session was organized to brief the journalists about the recent ban imposed by the government on the online advertisement of tobacco products, displaying power walls and posters at their sale points.
Barrister Ali Saif, Member, Senate of Pakistan, appreciated the decision by government and ensured his full commitment to this cause to safeguard the Pakistani youth from harms of tobacco.
Malik Imran Ahmad, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Pakistan Office, welcomed the decision by the government. He shared that the big tobacco industry has made huge profits at the expense of the health of Pakistani Citizens. A major cause of this has been the leniency in the law regarding the advertising of tobacco products. Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002, imposed a ban on advertisement of tobacco products in print and electronic media. However, the ordinance allowed display power walls and posters of tobacco products at the point of sale. Due to this, the sale of tobacco products remained alarmingly high.
Sajjad Ahmed Cheema, Executive Director, SPARC, said that youth is the prime target group for the tobacco industry. 1200 children start smoking daily in Pakistan. A huge proportion of middle school, college and university students have access to the internet and online shopping portals. These portals are selling tobacco products online which has contributed to spreading the menace of tobacco in our youth.
Talking about power walls and posters at point of sale, Col (R) Azhar Saleem, CEO, Human Development Foundation, said that on the instruction of tobacco industry, the vendors put tobacco products at cash counters at the eye level of children to attract them towards their products. The ban on power walls and posters at the point of sale will help in reducing these tactics.
Ch. Sanaullah Ghuman, Secretary-General, Pakistan National Heart Association (PANHA) stressed upon the need for strict implementation of the law. He mentioned that Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002 bans vendors from selling and promoting tobacco products within the 50-meter radius of educational institutions. However, the implementation of the law is minimal.
The session was followed by an interactive question-answer session that revealed many alarming facts about deceptive promotional and advertisement tactics of the tobacco industry.