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October 5, 2010 - The ban on sale of small cigarette packs, clamped through a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO), which takes effect on October 1, 2010, is being seen as a major stride forward in dissuading youth from tobacco use. If implemented in letter and spirit by manufacturers and retailers, the measure will prove significant in arresting the growing trend of smoking among youth.
For a country in turmoil - these public health minded people deserve a lot of credit in pushing ahead with tobacco control reforms..
Talking to ‘The News’, Director General Tobacco Control Yusuf Khan explained that the new SRO comprises two parts; the first deals with cigarette manufacturers and importers while the second is aimed at cigarette sellers or retailers.
According to the first part of SRO-863, all cigarette packs being manufactured by cigarette companies in Pakistan will be sold in packets of 20 cigarettes with effect from October 1, 2011. The sale of small packets containing 10, 5 or even three cigarettes will be illegal after this date, he said. “This is because it is much more affordable for youth and persons belonging to the poorer segments of the society to buy smaller packs of cigarettes rather than packs of 20 or more cigarettes,” he said. Yusuf Khan elaborated that youth and the poor are two segments that need to be protected most from falling into the habit of smoking.
Pakistan, with an estimated population of around 17.3 million in 2008, is the sixth most populous country in the world and most populous country of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. Over 50% of the total population is under 20 years old; 42% is under 15 years of age. Males constitute 51% of the population. Although its urban population is steadily increasing, Pakistan remains a largely a rural country, with only 36% of the total population living in urban settings. (Progress in tobacco control in Egypt and Pakistan, Wordl Health Organization, Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, August 2010) The SRO further stipulates that cigarette packs imported for consumption in Pakistan will not be cleared from the port of entry unless they are in a packet of at least 20 cigarettes. A period of one year has been granted to cigarette manufacturers and importers to adjust their manufacturing and business systems according to the new requirements of the Ministry of Health.
In addition, local manufacturers and importers will have to ensure that each cigarette pack, whether manufactured in Pakistan or imported for consumption in Pakistan, should have legibly printed on the side panel, in Urdu: “Sale to Persons under 18 Years of Age is Prohibited: Ministry of Health, Government of Pakistan.” SRO-863 also prohibits the sale of sweets, snacks or toys in the form of cigarettes that may appeal to any person under the age of 18.
According to the second part of the SRO, which that deals with responsibilities of retailers or sellers, it shall be the duty of every seller of cigarettes to ensure, within his premises, that neither a person under the age of 18 years is permitted to sell or offer for sale cigarettes, nor should the same be sold to customers who under 18 years of age. Every seller will clearly and prominently display an A-4 size warning prescribed by the Ministry of Health saying, “Sale of cigarettes to persons under the age of 18 years is prohibited by law.” In case of doubt about the age of the customer, it shall be the duty of the seller of cigarettes to ask the customer to provide evidence, which may be in the form of the national identity card, to prove that he or she has reached the age of 18 years.
“The Ministry of Health recognises that tobacco companies want to aggressively market and recruit the youth of Pakistan as ‘replacement smokers’ and future customers, as 100,000 of their older customers die of tobacco-related illnesses every year in Pakistan. We intend to reverse this trend,” the spokesman said.
Tobacco Pakistan: Overview - as of 8/2010.. .
Reference: Ban on sale of small cigarette packs from 1st Oct Shahina Maqbool, Islamabad, The International News, 9/30/2010.
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