Health Activists Reiterate Calls to Ban Online Sale of New Tobacco Products – Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: Health activists have urged the government to ban the online sale and advertising of new tobacco products.

The request came during an event organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child (Sparc) with social media influencers stepping forward to address the need to ban the online sale and advertising of emerging tobacco products.

The speakers pointed out that the tobacco industry has manipulated children and youth into purchasing new tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, nicotine pouches, and heated tobacco products, through various social media marketing tactics.

The head of the Kids Without Tobacco campaign Malik Imran Ahmed shared his concerns about the tobacco industry, adding that it is using advanced strategies to introduce markets with nicotine and emerging tobacco products.

“Introducing concepts of healthier alternatives to smoking, the tobacco industry has entered local markets along with online sales and promotion. The tobacco industry is misleading everyone by claiming that new tobacco products are less harmful and only for smokers who want to quit.

“However, these products are openly advertised online and sold to young and new consumers. This shows that these products are not a healthier alternative, but a tool to attract new consumers without any regard for the damage they can cause to the health of children and adolescents,” she said.

Country manager, Vital Strategies, Dr Ziauddin Islam said the tobacco industry was polluting the country with online selling and advertising of emerging products, which showed that there was a need to ban online selling and advertising of emerging tobacco products in Pakistan.

“Around 31 million Pakistanis consume tobacco and the introduction of new products will further increase this number. Social media is also being used to increase the number of tobacco users as an online platform is open to the tobacco industry to promote the sale and advertising of emerging harmful products,” she said.

Sparc program manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar said new tobacco products such as nicotine pouches, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products were all readily available for purchase online due to weaker advertising policies and online selling.

He urged the government to recognize the situation as a children’s rights emergency as it will directly harm their health, education and future development.

“It is the responsibility of policy makers to ensure that no anti-childhood policies are implemented in the country. The government must ban all types of advertisements and sales of such harmful products, especially the online presence of these products, because social media is a huge platform of influence for Pakistani youth,” she said.

Published in Dawn, December 21, 2022

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