ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of National Health Services in compliance with the federal cabinet’s decision has banned the sale of loose cigarettes to minors across the country ahead of upcoming budget.

An official informed The Nation Saturday that ministry, in its order, directed the retailers not to sell less than 20 cigarette sticks in a packet.

The official said that decision had been taken ahead of the upcoming federal budget to discourage the smoking ratio in the country and especially among the youth who cannot afford to purchase a full packet of cigarettes.

According to him, the new decision has been taken under the article 8 of ‘Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance, 2002’ which stated that no person shall sell cigarettes or any other smoking substance to any person who is below the age of 18 years.

He added that earlier the government had imposed a ban on the sale of less than five cigarettes to any individual but its implementation did not produce the desired results.

The decision has been taken to reduce the tobacco consumption by increasing its price through different ways. “New order has bound the retailers not to sell less than 20 cigarette sticks which will affect its distribution in low-income segment of the society and particularly students,” the official said.

According to him, retailers involved in violation of the new order will face penalties according to the ordinance as the government has strictly decided to control the tobacco consumption which is a major cause of cancer in the country.

He said that some sections are misinterpreting the decision of ban on loose cigarette that it will increase the cigarette sale as an individual will have to purchase the whole packet instead of loose cigarette. “The decision has been taken following international practice where there is no concept of selling loose cigarette as it easily become in the purchasing power of students,” he added.

He said the government is also mulling to propose increasing the tax on the cigarette in the upcoming budget. 

Director General NHS Dr Asad Hafeez, while talking to The Nation, confirmed the development and said that decision has been taken after the federal cabinet approved the ban on loose cigarettes.

He said that Pakistan is a signatory of the international treaty regarding taking measures to reduce the tobacco consumption as it is creating health hazards for people.

DG health said that the new decision has been taken to control the tobacco consumption and sale of cigarettes to minors who can easily purchase loose cigarettes.

Earlier, the government had also issued SRO of increasing the size of pictorial warning on cigarette packets. The order stated that the pictorial warning must cover at least 50 per cent of front and backside of the packet.

Head of The Network for Consumer Protection Nadeem Iqbal said that around 50 per cent population in the country is less than 18 years. He stressed the need for securing the children by bringing in new health regulations banning cigarette advertisement inside shops around schools.

He said that despite commands from highest government authorities, laws that prohibit underage sale and tobacco trade 50 meters around the schools are yet to be enforced in letter and spirit.

 

 

 

Sale of loose cigarettes to minors banned