ISLAMABAD: Multinational tobacco companies are targeting children by selling their products near schools where vendors sell cigarettes in packs and as single sticks, so they are more affordable, according to a report by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc).
Titled Big Tobacco-Tiny Targets, the report launched on Thursday said lose cigarettes were sold at 99.5pc of the 268 selling points near schools that were surveyed.
Sparc surveyed tobacco advertisements, sale, display and purchase incentives within 100 metres of schools in Islamabad, Murree, Larkana, Peshawar, Hafizabad, Pindi Bhattian, Jalalpur Bhattian and Shakar Dara.
A total of 113 schools were visited and 268 tobacco selling points were found around these schools.
It was observed that of the 268 points, 65.5pc carried British and American tobacco brands, 27.1pc carried Philip Morris International brands and 6.5pc carried Japanese brands.
The teams found tobacco advertisements at 89pc of the sale points and 94pc of these were placed next to sweets and toys.
“Pakistan children are bombarded with tobacco marketing and product accessibility immediately around their schools. These products are commonly advertised in stores near schools and are displayed beside the toys and candies to attract the children. Philip Morris and Pakistan Tobacco company products were the most commonly observed around schools, although, they are the most vocal lobby against the restrictions on tobacco advertisement in Pakistan,” the report said.
Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ Malik Imran Ahmed, who provided technical input for the report, said 100,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses every year in Pakistan.
“Tobacco companies do not want to lose their customers and want to replace their dying customers with young ones. The only thing they care about is sustaining their sales,” he said.
Sparc Executive Director Sajjad Cheema said the Prohibition of Smoking Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance, 2002 includes measures for stopping people from smoking in public, bans the sale of tobacco products near educational institutions and the sale of cigarettes to those under the age of 18.
However, he said, no complaints have been reported for the violations of this law.
Federal Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid said the federal government is working on enlarging the pictorial warning on cigarette packets and warnings covering 60pc of the packet will be made mandatory from June 1, 2019.
Pakistan National Heart Association President retired Maj Gen Masudur Rehman Kayani said that a few days ago, the state minister for interior shared some alarming figures about the use of drugs by school children and that smoking is the first step towards drug addiction.
He urged the government to make implementable policies and door-to-door advocacy campaigns with the help of the Anti Tobacco Cell.
Former surgeon general retired Lt Gen Mustafa Kamal Akbar suggested lectures be delivered in schools and colleges about the effects of smoking and that dramas and films should be used for anti-smoking advocacy.
Member Punjab Assemble Sabeen Gul Khan said lack of implementation of laws and lacunas in laws put Pakistani children at risk.
“Tobacco companies are thriving on these loopholes and there is therefore urgent need for updating existing laws to stop the tobacco industry from promoting their products to children,” she said.
Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018