Pakistan: Certain Cigarette Makers Violating Government Guidelines

Certain cigarette manufacturers are advertising their products in violation of the new guidelines introduced by the Ministry of National Health, Services, Regulations and Co-ordination (NHSR&C). Experts told Business Recorder here on Tuesday that the eight guidelines, effective from May 31, 2014, were issued in the form of a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) dated December 31, 2013.

They are meant to reinforce the existing laws meant for countering advertisement initiatives of certain cigarette companies, known for such activities in branding their products by adopting unique methods that by-pass the prevalent rules and regulations prohibiting any kind tobacco products advertisement.

These new guidelines clearly stipulate that tobacco or tobacco products advertisement through any media form shall not be allowed (print, electronic, cinema, theaters, branding on garments, posters or banners fixed outside shops, kiosks, mobile trolleys, billboards, on store boards or fascia fixed outside shops, kiosks or mobile trolleys).

However, even after four months of the SRO, various cigarette companies continue to go against existing anti-tobacco promotion laws so that they may market their products using a multitude of mediums for advertising. Such behaviour is in contravention of laws and is a real challenge for concerned authorities, especially the officials of the Ministry of NHSR&C.

Focusing on such violations, the government has already issued show cause notices to different cigarette manufacturing units and directed them to stop all illegal cigarette promotion activities. These companies were reported to be involved in advertising their brands through different means including advertisement boards on shops, free sampling, consumer incentive schemes which are in clear violations of “The Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance, 2002”.

While anti-tobacco activists appreciate the introduction of new stringent laws that bar the cigarette manufacturers from all kinds of tobacco or tobacco product advertising using any means or measure, they also believe that an effective control and enforcement mechanism is a necessity to ensure the implementation of anti-tobacco promotion laws.

The compliance of the new tobacco advertising rules and guidelines by the industry will be a challenge and the Ministry of NHSR&C will have to be ever vigilant to ensure compliance of these regulations in letter and spirit. According to ‘The Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance, 2002’, penalties for violations include fine of Rs 1000 extendable to Rs 100,000 and in case of second or subsequent offence, imprisonment up to three months with fine not less than Rs 100,000 or both, they added. Enditem