Islamabad : Experts have advocated plain packaging of cigarettes as a measure to control the use of tobacco.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Representative, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, told reporters here on Wednesday that plain packaging eliminated the dangerous effects of tobacco packaging as a form of advertising and promotion.
He said tobacco companies used attractive colors and designs, and appealing characters to attract new customers, especially children and women.
“These things ensure brand loyalty and boost sales, and mislead consumers about the harsh realities and danger of tobacco use,” he said.
Khalil Ahmed, Manager Research Communication, Society for Protection of Rights of the Child, said the branding of tobacco products was one of many deceptive tactics of the big tobacco industry.
“Every year, tobacco companies in Pakistan cause billions of rupees deficit to the national exchequer by enjoying low taxes, under-reporting their production, over reporting the percentage of illicit trade, and violating the promotion, advertisement and sponsorship laws,” he said.
Khalil Ahmed said it was the result of that branding that despite a ban on electronic and print media advertisement, tobacco consumption was not decreasing in Pakistan.
He said the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 2015, showed that around 1,200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day.
Dr Javaid A. Khan, Professor Medicine, Aga Khan University Hospital, said on one hand, tobacco companies claim plain packaging and graphical health warnings don’t decrease tobacco consumption but on the other, they try to block the implementation of these laws, which have scientific evidence to support them.
Azhar Saleem, CEO, Human Development Foundation, said plain packaging is included in guidelines to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
He said 16 countries had adopted tobacco plain packaging laws, and many other governments are in the process of formally considering the policy. “However, despite being a signatory to this convention, Pakistan has not made any efforts towards legalising plain packaging of tobacco products.”
Chaudhry Sanaullah Ghuman, Secretary General, Pakistan National Heart Association, shared the findings of ‘Big Tobacco, Tiny Targets’ a 2018 study conducted by SPARC, HDF and his organisation.
The report revealed that tobacco companies are promoting their products through catchy displays and distributing free packets at points of sales around primary and secondary schools to attract the youth in becoming regular customers.