Local tobacco manufacturers are breaching laws regarding advertisements and promotions of tobacco products through cash prizes and other such marketing schemes.
Offering incentives, such as cash prizes, to promote the sale of cigarettes is a clear violation of regulatory directives of the Ministry of Health, Business Recorder reported citing collected evidence of the schemes.
Local cigarette manufacturers are reportedly offering different prizes such as motorcycles, Umrah tickets, wall clocks, and cigarette cases, etc. Some companies are also offering a free pack of cigarettes on buying five packs. All these are clear violations of the regulations imposed by the government.
According to the statutory regulatory order (SRO) of tobacco advertisement guidelines, offering free incentives like free cigarette samples and other such discounts are not allowed.
Interestingly, some of the local cigarette manufacturing companies are also owned by parliamentarians. As a result, not only the enforcement authorities have failed to rope in such violations, but there are also active campaigns and efforts taking place in the government corridors to increase tobacco use and related promotion activities.
The news report also added that these local manufacturers also evade billions of rupees in taxes. Statistics suggest that the illicit tobacco trade in Pakistan has soared so high that it is even denting the legal tobacco industry. A resulting loss of Rs. 40 billion is incurring to the national exchequer annually, in addition to these blatantly unlawful practices.
Experts familiar with the matter believe that it is not the lack of relevant rules, rather a failure in their implementation that is causing these troubles. Multiple laws already exist, and if enforced properly, they can significantly reduce smoking prevalence in youth, bring down the illicit tobacco sector, and help the government in raising more revenue.
The illegal sale of cigarettes is also done at a much lower price than that of legally recognized brands. This means that despite the unending efforts of the anti-tobacco NGOs working towards increasing prices of cigarettes. These low-cost cigarettes continue to cause more and more people to start smoking every year, Pasha said.