Move to relax ban on cigarette ads opposed
KARACHI – The Pakistan Society of Chest Physicians (PSCP), Sindh, has expressed concern over moves to relax restrictions on cigarette advertisements on PTV under the pretext of a massive revenue loss to the state entity.
Office-bearers of the PSCP said in a press briefing in Karachi on August 11 that Pakistan, which ratified the International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in June this year and had also introduced ‘No-smoking Ordinance’ last year, should ensure that national and international commitments in this regard were honoured in letter and spirit.
Highlighting significance of anti-tobacco campaign, they pointed out as many as 1,200 to 1,500 children in the age group of 6-16 years take up smoking every day in Pakistan whereas smokers burn out Rs560 million a day. A much heftier amount, they added, was being spent on treatment of the diseases related to cigarette and tobacco.
Stressing on effective promulgation of the ordinance, they maintained that the plea, allegedly move at the behest of a strong lobby of cigarette manufacturers and promoters to get the ban on advertisements on PTV lifted from 6am to 12 midnight, was unacceptable and any such decision would be absolutely imprudent.
“International studies reveal that a ban on cigarette advertisements on electronic media has effected a 20 per cent decline in smoking-related diseases,” the doctors said. He recalled that such a ban was imposed in the United States in 1960s and in the United Kingdom in 1980s.
They attributed the growing influence of tobacco companies on the country’s affairs to the lack of political will in checking the trend. In this regard, they pointed out that one of these companies was spending about Rs328 million and another one Rs295 million under the head of advertisements per annum “at the cost of public health”.
“Even in countries like Bangladesh and India, there is a strict ban on cigarette ads on all public and private channels.” They appreciated certain private TV channels for not covering tobacco firms’ promotional activities voluntarily, thus adhering to their responsibility towards public health.
They regretted that the public sector in Pakistan was contributing a negligible amount of five to seven million rupees to the public health education programme whereas a revenue of Rs35 billion had been collected in the year 2002 alone as central excise duty and sales tax from the tobacco industry.
Referring to the direct impact of such promotional activities, especially on youth, the doctors quoted a study which suggested that 40 per cent male and eight per cent female population in Pakistan was in the habit of smoking.
A UNDP report was also referred to in this regard which suggested that cigarette consumption per person/year in Pakistan was the highest in South Asia. The office-bearers of PCPS, Sindh, Prof Nadeem Rizvi, Prof Javed A. Khan, Dr. Shaheena and Dr. Shakeel A. Siddiqui, demanded effective measures to curb all activities related to the promotion of smoking, tobacco consumption in any form, availability and consumption of betelnut-made products.
Source: Dawn, The News