ISLAMABAD: Civil rights activists and parliamentarians on Thursday expressed concerns that multinational cigarette manufacturing companies were systematically targeting children as young as six years of age by using aggressive marketing techniques.
They were speaking at the launch of a report, “Monitoring of tobacco advertising, promotion, sponsorships and point of sale advertising” prepared by TheNetwork for Consumer Protection.
Eminent rights activist I.A. Rehman called for initiating a nationwide movement against the sale of cigarettes to children. He said the campaign should include teachers, social workers and others members of society. Senator Nasreen Jalil of the MQM said existing tobacco laws should strictly be enforced.
“It is very unfortunate that there are laws but they are never enforced or implemented. It is an uphill task to take action against multinational cigarette manufacturers, but we have to do it,” she said. She extended the support of parliamentarians for necessary legislation to control tobacco use and its advertisements targeting the youth.
Report says multinationals are placing advertisements on shops selling candies, chocolates outside schools
The report said cigarette companies were following a different law in advanced countries but luring young Pakistanis towards smoking.
“They are placing advertisements on shops selling candies/chocolates outside the gates of primary and secondary schools throughout Pakistan,” said the report.
The speakers acknowledged that the main tool used by the cigarette companies was to pressure governments over huge taxes they paid.
The report was compiled after a survey conducted around schools in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi and Quetta.
The survey showed that 83pc of shops were having cigarettes displayed behind the cash counter, 52pc had cigarettes inside glass counters, 50pc had placed cigarettes with toffees and snacks, 14pc displayed ‘limited time offer’ or ‘free gifts’ on the purchase of cigarettes.
But the most serious violation was 89pc of the shops do not display ‘No sale to minor signage’.
To enforce its point of view, the NGO showed testimonies of several children.
“I was attracted to cigarettes at a shop as the tobacco products were prominently displayed there,” said one child belonging to the rural area of Islamabad.
Similarly, young Laiba Akhtar stated: “I went to a shop and asked for a cigarette pack, the seller immediately handed me the pack without asking my age or any other question.”
Nadeem Iqbal, the CEO of the Network, said: “It is astonishing that shopkeepers are also selling cigarettes to girls.”
He said the industry claimed that cigarettes were only being sold to persons above 18 years age, but practically these claims had been proven wrong.”
Mr Iqbal said the excise duty on cigarettes should be 75pc compared to the existing 58pc as the national health cost due to smoking was significantly high.
He said around 110,000 children initiated smoking before the age of 10.
Senior officials of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), parliamentarians, representatives of NGOs and civil society called for stopping the cigarette manufacturing giants from deceptive marketing practices and selling techniques which attracted children towards tobacco products at the retail shops near schools.
Courtesy : Dawn News