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ISLAMABAD: Director of Excise Department Islamabad Capital Territory Administration Maryam Mumtaz issued notices to over 900 tobacco retailers in the capital on Tuesday, asking them to get their licenses within one week of receiving the notices.

Under the Tobacco Vendors Act (TVA) passed in 1958, all tobacco retailers had to be licensed before they can start their business.

A Ministry of Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) official said the TVA was only implemented for a few years and by the early 60s, retailers had stopped getting their licences.

He said: “By getting retailers licensed, the government can ensure that laws regarding tobacco sale are being observed. Also, data about the retailers and their sales can be collected easily because at the moment, there is no such information about tobacco products and their sales.”

The CADD official said by getting licensed, retailers will have to submit an undertaking that they will not sell tobacco products to someone under 18. He said sellers will not be able to sell loose cigarettes, will not be allowed to advertise tobacco products and cannot set up a tobacco selling point within 50 yards of an educational institute.

The project director of ‘Tobacco Smoke Free Capital’ Dr Minhajus Siraj told Dawn that the district administration had been requested to implement the law again in the capital so that the government could easily monitor tobacco sale and its use.

He said: “A strict enforcement of TVA and getting sellers licensed will generate revenue for the government because retailers will have to pay Rs2,000 every year for it and will also regulate the sale of cigarettes and other harmful products.”

Tobacco products are health hazards and their use harms the body is so many ways, Dr Minhaj warned.

He said this intervention will save the environment and our children from falling prey to the trap set up by tobacco companies and from getting addicted to nicotine and other additives in these products.

The project director said sheesha was already banned in the capital after the Supreme Court took notice and asked the government to impose the ban.

He said: “After making getting licensed for selling tobaccos products mandatory in Islamabad, the act may also be implemented across the country, as in the case of banning sheesha.”

Dr Minhaj said many teenagers will not be able to smoke if sale of single cigarettes was banned and retailers were prohibited from selling to someone younger than 18 years of age.

He said Tobacco Free Project had received notices issued by the Excise Department and were being dispatched to vendors. The notices were sent to the project because they were the ones who conducted the survey on tobacco vendors in the capital.

Data from The State Bank of Pakistan estimates the tobacco market to be worth Rs300 billion. However, the tobacco industry has declared its worth as only Rs136 billion so they don’t pay as much tax, the doctor said.

He added, “If the law is implemented and licences are made mandatory, the government will be able to collect tax according to the actual worth of the industry.”

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2015