LAHORE: Experts have urged a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, noting that isolated actions have little effect in reducing youth smoking.
“Comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising and promotion can result in a considerable reduction of tobacco consumption on a national level,” said University of Health Sciences (UHS) vice chancellor Prof Malik Hussain Mubashar, adding that where a complete ad ban was coupled with an intensive public information campaign on smoking, a reduction in tobacco consumption of up to 16 per cent could be achieved.
He was speaking at a training workshop titled ‘Comprehensively banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship’ (TAPS), here at the UHS on Tuesday. The workshop was held in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health. Doctors, journalists and representatives of civil society also participated in the workshop.
The vice chancellor said that tobacco use could lead to substance abuse. He said tobacco companies were targeting young people by linking tobacco use with glamour, sex appeal and energy.
“A campaign of ‘spiritual hygiene’ may be launched in the society with targeted educational programmes for adolescent population in schools, colleges and universities,” Prof Mubashar said, adding that a separate “ministry of healthy public policies” should be established to frame policies to safeguard and improve public health.
The vice chancellor urged parents who smoke to quit, or at least to move their smoking outside. “Make the home a smoke-free environment first,” he said.
Shahzad Alam Khan, WHO national programme officer for tobacco control, said that partial bans on tobacco advertising wouldn’t work as the industry had innovative ways to promote tobacco.
“The tobacco industry undertakes much more ‘indirect’ advertising than other industries. It includes sponsorship of sports or cultural events, displays at points of sale, brand stretching where tobacco brand names are printed on other objects such as caps, umbrellas, etc,” he said, and added that smoking scenes were common in TV serials and films.
He said that although there were restrictions on advertising, the tobacco industry had simply shifted its vast resources to another channel.
He urged a complete ban on all types of tobacco promotion so as to “break the tobacco marketing net”.
Shahzad said that tobacco killed 100 million people worldwide during the 20th century. By the year 2030, if the current trend continues, it will have killed over 800 million, 80 per cent of them in developing countries such as Pakistan, he added.
He said 49.6 billion cigarettes were produced in 2002-03 and 66.4 billion in 2006-07. Women and youth were the prime targets of the tobacco industry, and the ratio of young male to female tobacco users is now 2 to 1, he said.
Earlier, Dr Minhajus Siraj, assistant director for general health in the Tobacco Control, Cell, told the audience about national smoking laws and the Ministry of Health’s efforts at tobacco control. These included the introduction of a pictorial health warning on cigarette packets and bans on smoking in public places.
“This is the year of implementation of the law,” he said, adding that recently, for the first time, a few people had been fined under the law.
Dr Babar Alam and Allama Asghar Ali Kausar Warriach also spoke.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2011.