ISLAMABAD: Anti-tobacco activists have urged the government to implement plain packaging of cigarettes as a Tobacco Control Measure.

Speaking to a press conference, organised by Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (Sparc) at National Press Club, they said that it was the need of the hour to protect youth from the hazards of smoking.

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Country Representative Malik Imran Ahmed said: “Plain packaging eliminates the dangerous effects of tobacco packaging, as a form of advertising and promotion.Tobacco companies use attractive colours, designs, and appealing characters to attract new customers, especially children. These things ensure brand loyalty, boost sales and mislead consumers about the dangers of tobacco use.”

Sparc Research Communication Manager Khalil Ahmed highlighted that branding on tobacco products was one of the many “deceptive” tactics of the tobacco industry.

“Every year, tobacco companies in Pakistan cause a deficit of billions of rupees to the national exchequer by enjoying low taxes, under-reporting their production, over reporting the percentage of illicit trade and violating promotion, advertisement and sponsorship laws. It is a result of this branding that despite a ban on electronic and print media advertisements, tobacco consumption is not decreasing in Pakistan,” he added.

Professor of medicine at Aga Khan University Hospital Dr Javaid A. Khan said: “Tobacco companies say that plain packaging and graphical health warnings do not decrease tobacco consumption, however, these companies try to block every move in support of implementation of laws, which are backed by scientific evidence.”

Human Development Foundation Chief Executive Officer Azhar Saleem said that plain packaging was included in the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2020