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January 18, 2019

Schoolchildren hold anti-tobacco rally


January 18, 2019

Islamabad : Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), Human Development Foundation and Pakistan National Heart Association held a rally to create public awareness of 'children being the soft targets of tobacco industry' at D-Chowk near Parliament House here.

The students of various schools, social activists, civil society members, and journalists participated in the event holding banners, posters, and placards inscribed with slogans.

Addressing protesters, Executive Director of SPARC Sajjad Ahmad Cheema said the purpose of organising the rally was to create awareness among children as soft targets of the tobacco industry. He added that the sale of cigarettes to minors and near educational institutions remained a constant worry in the country. "Tobacco advertisements and youth-focused marketing tactics are one of the main tools of the tobacco industry to reach out younger consumers. These tactics is increasing new tobacco consumers and generating maximum profit for the tobacco industry," he said. He referred to the SPARC’s recent research report Big Tobacco-Tiny Targets that around 1,500 youngsters starting smoking every day in the country, which is a very alarming situation.

Further research explained that tobacco products displayed at tobacco sales points near schools at child eye level (01 meter) within the capital territory.

Eye level is a buy level for children: Display of tobacco products was 95 percent on the tobacco sales points within the Islamabad.

The SPARC executive director demanded the government increase more taxes on cigarettes to reduce cigarette affordability, harmonise all taxes across tobacco products, and fully implement the Protocol to eliminate illicit tobacco trade, particularly the measures for supply chain control, implement tobacco vendor license, tracking and tracing of tobacco production and sales, align the Protocol with the legislation on prosecutions and sanctions for tax evasion.

The protesters demanded Pakistan’s health authorities should be reactive efforts towards monitoring and curbing tobacco to reverse the country's tobacco epidemic. They called for collaborative activities like anti-smoking education, tobacco smoke-free policies, increase in the price of cigarettes, display of warning pictures and health hazardous about smoking publically, new tobacco control legislation, and higher tobacco taxes.

The protesters also demanded a complete ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, create awareness among citizens regarding negative effects of smoking, implementation of tobacco control laws, development of a national coordinating mechanism, establishment of a federal enforcement committee, establishment of a technical advisory group, National Action plan for Enforcement, Provincial Tobacco Control Cells should be set up and with support for implementation of the Bloomberg Initiative Grants Programme.

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