‘No one to be allowed to jeopardise children’s health’

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Senator Mohammad Ali Saif speaks at the event on Tuesday.  Parliamentary Secretary on National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid is also present. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Senator Mohammad Ali Saif speaks at the event on Tuesday. Parliamentary Secretary on National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid is also present. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary Secretary on National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid said on Tuesday that health is a top priority for the government and no one would be allowed to jeopardise the health of children and young people.

The parliamentary secretary was speaking at an event, ‘Encourage ban on advertisement of tobacco products’, organised by Society for Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) to brief journalists on the recent government ban on online advertising for tobacco products and the display of such advertisements at points of sale.

Dr Hamid said the government cares about people’s health and would take all possible measures to protect young people from the hazards of smoking.

Senator Mohammad Ali Saif from Muttahida Qaumi Movement praised the government’s decision and said he was committed to this cause to safeguard young Pakistanis from the harm tobacco does.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids representative Malik Imran Ahmad welcomed the government’s decision.

He said the tobacco industry had made huge profits at the expense of citizens’ health.

A major cause of this has been the leniency in the law regarding tobacco product advertising.

“The Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance 2002 imposed a ban on advertisement of tobacco products in print and electronic media. However, the ordinance allowed the display of power walls and posters at point of sale. Due to this, the sale of tobacco products remained alarmingly high. However, we have finally succeeded in banning advertisements at points of sale,” he said.

Sparc Executive Director Sajjad Ahmed Cheema said youth were the prime target of the tobacco industry.

He said: “1,200 children start smoking daily in Pakistan. A huge proportion of middle school, college and university students have access to internet and online shopping portals. These portals are selling tobacco products online, which has contributed to spreading the menace of tobacco in our youth,” he said.

Human Development Foundation CEO retired Col Azhar Saleem said on tobacco industry’s instructions vendors placed tobacco products at cash counters at children’s eye level to attract them. He said the ban on power walls and posters at points of sale would help reduce these tactics.

Pakistan National Heart Association Secretary General Sanaullah Ghuman stressed that the law needs to be strictly implemented.

He said the 2002 ordinance bans vendors from selling and promoting tobacco products within a 50-metre radius of educational institutions, but implementation of the law is minimal.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2020