ISLAMABAD: Health activists have urged the government to ban online advertisements and sale of tobacco products so that the health of the youth of Pakistan could be protected.

They were speaking in an interactive session “Social media’s influence on sale and advertisement of modern tobacco products” organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child (Sparc).

The objective of the interactive session was to reach out to social media influencers to expose the tactics of tobacco industry’s deceptive social media campaigns.

Country Head Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Malik Imran Ahmed said according to data about 1,200 children initiated smoking each day in Pakistan. Tobacco industry is utilising social media to promote their innovative products and manipulate children and adolescents into buying these harmful products.

“Children are being attracted by tobacco industry’s tricks because of newly introduced ways of advertisement and involvement of celebrities. The responsibility falls onto the government to ban advertisement and sale of all kinds of new tobacco products to children to save the future of our children,” he said.

Dr Ziauddin Islam, Country Lead (Vital Strategies), said the ratio of young smokers in Pakistan was only increasing due to the absence of check and balance on online advertisements and sale of innovative tobacco products.

“Industry has given children easy access to these dangerously addictive new tobacco products everywhere in the country. The only possible way to erase tobacco popularity among children is to ban all sorts of sale to children and advertisements, especially on social media,” he said.

Khalil Ahmed, Programme Manager Sparc, said the tobacco industry was hunting for new buyers and children seemed an easy target to entrap.

“The online advertisements on tobacco products give the industry a huge platform to manipulate children by gaining their attention on social media. Government should take notice of these vast online advertisements and save our children as the future of our country depends on them,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2022

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