Concerns have been raised by civil society and health activists regarding the growing popularity of new nicotine products among children and youth in Pakistan. These products are highly addictive due to their substantial nicotine content. In a press release issued by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child (SPARC), it was emphasized that the Government of Pakistan must take decisive action to prohibit the sale and promotion of these highly dangerous products to protect our children. While radio and television advertising for these products is already banned, the tobacco industry has found ways to target Pakistan’s youth, especially children, through online promotions and sales.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), expressed his grave concerns about this pressing issue. He pointed out that 58.7 million of Pakistan’s population consists of young individuals, and the tobacco industry is actively pursuing our youth to reap enormous profits. This puts us in a precarious position, jeopardizing the well-being of Pakistan’s future generations as they face the risk of addiction and early onset of diseases.
Imran stated that the big tobacco industry is not only making its presence felt on social media but is also endeavoring to captivate the attention of children by enhancing the appeal of their products in tea cafes, markets, small grocery stores, stalls, and malls. These products are displayed in various flavors, bright colors, and enticing shapes, often placed near toys, chocolates, and candies.
Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager SPARC, stated that the tobacco industry targets young people because they are more impressionable. The industry requires new customers to sustain its profits in the coming decades, which is why they disseminate misleading information about new nicotine products and label them as healthier alternatives. They leverage online platforms to market and sell these addictive nicotine products to ensnare children and youth, exploiting the popularity of social media and the internet among the younger generation, making them easily accessible to the industry’s influence.
Khalil added that it is imperative that the government takes stringent measures to counter these deceptive tactics employed by the tobacco industry, which aims to divert the course of our future generations. Tobacco-related diseases not only burden the nation’s healthcare system but also diminish Pakistan’s youth potential and productivity.