Monday July 04, 2022

Companies flout tobacco control laws to boost cigarettes sale

By Our Correspondent
April 19, 2022

LAHORE: Cigarette companies are continuously promoting cigarettes through advertising and gift schemes in violation of laws.Cigarette companies are luring people to smoke in various ways, which is one of the main reasons for the failure of government policies to protect public health.

According to a recent survey for the first quarter of this year, vendors and consumers are being lured through reward schemes, cash prices and attractive discounts to increase sales and use of cigarettes. Posters for cigarettes, incentive letters to consumers and vendors inside packets are being issued and events to introduce nicotine products are also being organized on a large scale. As per law, reward schemes to attract consumers and incentives for vendors are banned in Pakistan with all kinds of cigarette advertisements.

The law prohibits online advertising of cigarette products, point-of-sale advertisements, or displays. It also prohibits all types of reward schemes, cash prizes, or free cigarettes to increase cigarette sales and promote smoking in Pakistan. Illegal brands of cigarettes have also taken advantage of the negligence of the agencies concerned to launch discount schemes in various cities of Punjab. A survey reveals that a tobacco company is offering huge discounts on its brands in different cities, free packets, and cups bearing the name of a tea company. It has introduced a new picket-free scheme on five empty packs in Gujranwala.

Illegal incentives and reward schemes are also spreading to other cities in Sindh where two tobacco companies have showered cash and motorcycles and other prizes on shoppers and consumers at the launch of a new brand in Sukkur.

Another tobacco company has favoured vendors with gold foil coins and bars for pasting large posters at retail sites. According to health experts, despite the ban on reward schemes and public advertisements for promotion of cigarettes, the agencies and departments concerned are not taking action to stop them. Due to non-application of laws, Pakistan has left all Asian countries behind in the sale of illegal cigarettes. Dr Nadeem Rizvi, a renowned pulmonologist, said “Tobacco control laws are being openly violated and despite having legal authority, the authorities are not interested in stopping the illegal sale of cigarettes.”

He added that it is very unfortunate that due to the non-enforcement of the laws, the overall sales of cigarettes in Pakistan have not declined in the last several years which is a question mark on the policies of the government. He said that it is imperative to crack down on violators of laws and eliminate illegal sales of cigarettes before it is too late.