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March 6, 2020

TheNetwork demands enforcement of tobacco vendors’ registration law

Islamabad

March 6, 2020

Islamabad : Welcoming the federal government’s recent ban on cigarette advertising in and outside shops, TheNetwork for Consumer Protection has pointed out that the new regulation will only be effective if tobacco shops are registered and licensed with the government because currently, there are a large number of convenience stores including petrol pumps, mobile top-up, and grocery shops where cigarettes are sold but are hard to be identified.

Reacting to a recently published Statutory Regulatory Order which further strengthens earlier tobacco advertising and promotion regulation by banning display and visibility of cigarette packs either inside or outside points of sale, the CEO of TheNetwork said, “This is the single most effective step in preventing initiation of smoking among youth, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the Ministry of Health Services needs to do more.”

Referring to the recent Dutch Parliament legislation that calls for selling tobacco in ‘only tobacco shops,’ Nadeem said, Pakistan inherited tobacco vendors’ registration law under which tobacco cannot be sold without license. But this law is only effective in Punjab and Islamabad without not much enforcement. The need, therefore, is that this vendors’ registration law should be adopted by all the provinces and enforced through strict monitoring.

Article 13 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Pakistan ratified in 2005 comprehensively bans Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS). Such bans are recognized as a critical policy measure as they comprise one of only two provisions in the WHO FCTC that impose a mandatory timeframe for implementation (the other one being Article 11 of the Convention).

According to the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2019, banning TAPS remains an under-adopted measure, with only 18 per cent of the world’s population in 48 countries covered by a comprehensive ban. At the same time, there are 44 countries (11 high-income, 21 middle-income, and 12 low-income countries) that have not adopted any TAPS bans to date.

Earlier in 2016, a survey to monitor the prevalence of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco products (mainly cigarettes) around schools was conducted by TheNetwork in six cities of Pakistan namely, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Quetta, and Peshawar. The survey of shops called ‘Tiny Targets’ around 120 schools in six metropolitan urban centers showed 100 per cent violation of the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance, 2002. Almost half of the shops have a placement of cigarette packs with candies and snacks; these shops are mainly visited by primary school children between the ages of 3 and 10 years. Fifty percent of the 500 shops surveyed in the six major cities of Pakistan place cigarettes for sale together with candies and snacks, 14 per cent give ‘limited time offers’ or gifts on purchase of cigarettes, and 89 per cent shops do not display ‘No Sale to Minors’ signage.