Health experts have expressed concerns over the deceptive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry to attract its new customers particularly the youth.
According to a statement issued by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), the tobacco industry through a global talent hunt competition is trying to advertise its products in a clandestine way.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) in a statement said tobacco companies couldn’t be considered the same as other multinational corporations as their primary goal is to make profit from deadly tobacco products. These products cause 8 million deaths around the world and 170,000 deaths in Pakistan each year.
Malik Imran further said that taking advantage of weak tobacco control policies, these companies organize campaigns which are merely publicity stunts meant to bolster their public image, disguise their deadly profit-motive, and recruit young people to help spread death and disease. The vast proportion of damage caused by tobacco occurs in low and middle-income countries like Pakistan who are being targeted in this year’s competition.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Programme Manager SPARC, stated that the devastating harm to societies and families created by tobacco-related death and disease far outweighs any prize money tobacco companies can provide. Due to cheap and easy affordability, around 1,200 Pakistani children between the ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day. He shared that during the “Battle for Health” campaign, young people have been sensitized to not participate in tobacco industry’s campaigns. If they do, they are helping the company market tobacco products. Khalil also urged the citizens concerned with public health and Pakistan’s economy to use their social media channels to highlight the harms caused by tobacco products.
Shariq Mahmood Khan, CEO, Chromatic Trust, shared that weaker tobacco control policies in Pakistan have allowed the companies to prey on the public’s health. Tobacco companies have used deceptive tactics to interfere with public health policies and sold deadly products online and to children near educational institutions.
He stated that the government needs to tighten the tobacco control laws and invest in education and employment programme’s so that our youth doesn’t get attracted to such deceptive campaigns.