Ignorance of the Tobacco Vendors Act, which requires all tobacco sellers to have licences, has resulted in mushroom growth of tobacco shops across the country.
Pakistan is lagging behind in enforcement of existing tobacco control laws and the government needs to hold itself accountable for its national as well as international commitments under the Prohibition of Smoking & Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002 and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
This was shared at a press conference organised by The Network for Consumer Protection (TheNetwork) on Wednesday at the National Press Club to mark the World No Tobacco Day, which is observed on May 31.
This year’s theme, “Stop Tobacco Industry Interference: Intimidation”, focuses on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry’s brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
TheNetwork Executive Coordinator Nadeem Iqbal said today, the tobacco industry has built strong ties with convenience stores, fuel stations, pharmacies, departmental stores and others to give consumers easy access to tobacco products.
While sharing the findings of a survey on point of sale advertisement in Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Multan, 90% of the 405 monitored shops in these cities were found selling cigarettes to minors in violation of the law.
Meanwhile, 83% of tobacco sellers in the capital were clueless about the licence requirement, while in Rawalpindi, 52% said they had the licence but failed to produce it upon request. Meanwhile 95% of shops selling cigarettes in the twin cities have become a hub for tobacco promotional activities, Iqbal.
He said developing countries like Pakistan are easy targets for the tobacco industry as gaps in tobacco control policies provide room for promotion of cigarettes more aggressively. He said there are many shopkeepers who give customers a few cigarettes in lieu of change.
Dr Hassan, project manager at The Network, said Pakistan has missed the deadline to rotate pictorial health warnings in December 2011 and that despite having recognised FCTC eight years ago, it is still failing to fulfil international obligations and commitments.
He said according to the WHO, 100,000 Pakistanis die due to smoking-related diseases every year and about 1,200 youngsters starts smoking every day.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2012.