‘Cigarette makers need to follow graphic warning condition’

Top official of Tobacco Control Cell says 12,000 children aged six-12 start smoking every day in Pakistan

​ Our Correspondent October 04, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference on Thursday said that it should be mandatory for cigarette manufacturers to print a graphic warning on 60 per cent area of the packets.

During an interactive session arranged by the Human Development Foundation (HDF), speakers pointed out that tobacco companies were not complying with the condition of printing graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.

The HDF report said it was based on a survey conducted in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan and Karachi.

During the session, speakers underlined the need for strict enforcement of tobacco control laws in every nook and cranny of the country to discourage the growing trend of smoking among youth.

Over 1,200 children between the age bracket of 6 to 12 years, start smoking daily in Pakistan, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Tobacco Control Cell Head Ziaud Din told the participants of 'Fact Sharing Session on Graphic Health Warning on Tobacco Products'.

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The session, arranged by the Human Development Foundation (HDF), was attended by a large number of students, members of civil societies, lawyers and journalists.  Zia said the tobacco industry targeted the teenagers by glamorizing smoking in order to boost the clientele.

He said the health ministry was determined to reduce smoking habits among youth through the promulgation of Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs). Zia said the law introduced in 2015 to ensure 85 per cent Graphic Health Warning (GHW) on a cigarette pack could not be enforced as the tobacco industry opted for the litigation. However, he said tobacco companies were following the SRO which sought placement of pictorial warning on 60 per cent cover of a cigarette pack.

HDF Chief Executive Officer Azhar Saleem called upon district administrations to intensify their efforts for strict compliance of the anti-smoking laws in their respective areas.

Presenting the GHW survey report, conducted by his Foundation in five major cities of the country, he said the report showed that 49 per cent shops were selling cigarettes within the 50 meter radius of educational institutions which was banned under the 'Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance, 2002.

Similarly, he said some 71 per cent of the visited shops had power walls displaying cigarette brands at the eye level of children.

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He also mentioned the violations of pictorial warnings size and sale of old stocks of the cigarettes in the country.

Azhar urged the media and civil societies to play their due role in implementing the tobacco laws by pinpointing the violators on social media.

SPARC (Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child) CEO Sajjad Cheema, called upon the departments concerned to take punitive measure against the shopkeepers operating their businesses within 50 meter radius of the educational institutions.

He stressed for adopting the plain packaging of cigarettes, being practiced in the developed countries, to reduce the brand consciousness among the youth.

Sajjad said the country should follow the United Nations Conventions on tobacco control and international guidelines to curtail underage smoking habit.

Another speaker Malik Imran stressed for the sensitization of masses about the hazardous impacts of smoking on human lives.

To a query, Head of Tobacco Cell said the department had published over one million anti-smoking sensitization material and disseminated it among the public.  He said the cell had arranged more than 0.2 million awareness sessions in schools, colleges, Police Stations and other public places in order to sensitize the people about harms of tobacco use.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2019.

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