ISLAMABAD: Health experts and members of civil society on Wednesday criticised the global prize competitions by a tobacco company in the name of career development, alleging that it is an effort to recruit youngsters as future employees and customers.

This was stated in a joint statement titled: ‘Tobacco Money is Blood Money’, issued by the experts.

The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) Programme Manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar said it was a deceptively dangerous marketing tactics of tobacco industry to attract the youth.

He said youth were the biggest victims of tobacco industry.

“Due to cheap and easy affordability, around 1,200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day. It is imperative that youth across the country is informed about the deceptive tactics of the tobacco industry.

“This competition, much like others, is a deceptive attempt to deviate people’s attention from the tactics which tobacco industry has applied all over the world to make profit at the expense of public health,” he said.

The devastating harm to societies and families created by tobacco-related death and disease far outweighs any prize money tobacco companies can provide, he said.

Country head of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Malik Imran Ahmed said major tobacco companies now spend $9.1 billion per year nearly $25 million every day to promote their products, and many of their marketing efforts directly reach youth across the world.

Due to influence in policy making and deceptive marketing tactics of tobacco industry, tobacco consumption is not decreasing in Pakistan.

He expressed that it was irrational to think that an industry which was responsible for loss of 170,000 lives and Rs615 billion every year in Pakistan, will willingly contribute to the career development of youth.

“A key reason the industry is able to organise such campaigns and offer lucrative incentives to youth, is the low taxation policies it enjoys in many countries,” Mr Imran said.

Shariq Mahmood Khan, CEO Chromatic Trust, said the government needed to take a lead in this issue and confront the tobacco industry head on.

He said Pakistan was a signatory of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which has repeatedly recommended Pakistan to tighten the grip on tobacco industry.

The government needs to implement FCTC recommendations which will not only reduce tobacco consumption but also generate much needed revenue for the country.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2022

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