Online sale, advertisement of tobacco products banned

Updated February 02, 2020

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The government has imposed a ban on online advertisement of tobacco products and stopped tobacco companies from displaying power walls and posters at their sale points. — AFP/File
The government has imposed a ban on online advertisement of tobacco products and stopped tobacco companies from displaying power walls and posters at their sale points. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The government has imposed a ban on online advertisement of tobacco products and stopped tobacco companies from displaying power walls and posters at their sale points.

“As per Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002, there is a ban on advertisement of tobacco products in print and electronic media. However, companies were allowed to display power walls and posters of tobacco products at the point of sale. Now they will not be allowed to do so,” Dr Minhajus Siraj, director Directorate of Tobacco Control at Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), told Dawn.

He said in the past companies were allowed to display A-4 size posters so they used to paste tens of posters at each sale point. Moreover, they used to paste them at eye level of children so that children would be attracted towards smoking.

“It was also observed that a large number of people buy tobacco products online. Now no company will be able to advertise tobacco products online such as on their websites or through e-mails. This will play a major role to discourage people from buying tobacco products online,” Dr Siraj said.

Replying a question, he said according to the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO), the ban would be imposed across the country and in case of violation strict action would be taken. He said the decision had been supported by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Govt also stops tobacco firms from displaying posters at sale points

According to a statement, the law now prohibits the display of tobacco products near cash counters, through power walls placed at kids’ eye levels and through posters or paintings or on-screen displays at the points of sale.

“Gimmicks applied by the tobacco industry to attract under age (below 18 years) children are not a secret and the government has applied all possible sanctions on the promotional activities/advertisements,” said the NHS ministry.

“At least 166,000 Pakistanis die every year due to cancer and other illnesses attributed to smoking or non-smoking tobacco products. The government is determined to prevent people from the diseases and mortality caused by the use of tobacco products.”

Tobacco products are debarred from appearing on billboards or posters inside or outside shops or any other place. The electronic media is no longer available to display tobacco or its products and the exclusion includes all categories of cinemas and theatres, including mini or mobile.

“The industry is also stopped from targeting individuals through social media or personal mails (electronic, postal or otherwise). No promotional activity or retailer incentives programmes will be allowed under the law.

The sponsorships of events or display of products by the tobacco industry at any venue is also illegal from now on,” said the statement.

Technical Head and Director Tobacco Control Cell Dr Mohammad Ziauddin told Dawn that the decision was due for a long time.

“We had to contact the federal cabinet more than once and despite immense pressure of the tobacco industry Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza played a major role to get the SRO issued,” he said.

He said it was a major development and would reduce tobacco consumption in the country.

“We have to save over new generation from the hazards of tobacco and are thankful to Prime Minister Imran Khan for supporting the proposal. Now advertisement at points of sale and online advertisements have been banned across the country,” Dr Zia said.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2020