Pakistan News

‘Grotesque’ cigarette packets may carry ad against corruption

‘Grotesque’ cigarette packets may carry ad against corruption

ISLAMABAD: On one hand the ministry of national health services (NHS) has been trying to stop use of tobacco, but on the other it plans to offer cigarette packets for government advertisement against corruption.

Health circles believe that by involving the tobacco companies in a campaign against corruption will discourage the stance of the ministry against the use of tobacco.

However, the minister Saira Afzal Tarar said it was just a proposal and the ministry might give other options to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for the campaign against corruption.

On February 11, the ministry of NHS announced to introduce pictorial warning on the packets of cigarette which would cover its 85 per cent area.

It was also announced that tobacco industry would be instructed to introduce new packing carrying the warning from May 31.

Moreover, it was announced that same conditions would be applied to the imported cigarettes.

Decision was unexpected for the tobacco industry and soon it started making efforts to get the decision reversed. Tobacco industry not only wrote letters to decision makers but also used foreign diplomats in support of their campaign against the decision of the pictorial warning.

On Wednesday, an official statement was issued from the ministry of NHS stating that Ms Tarar appreciated the NAB’s proposal to print “Say NO to Corruption” message on cigarette packs.

She also directed the ministry to discuss ways and means for implementing this initiative.

According to the statement, this was stated in a meeting with Director General Awareness and Prevention Division NAB Ms. Aliya Rashid.

Ms Aliya apprised the Minister that one of the major issues of developing countries was corruption with its manifestations as bribery, nepotism, embezzlement and misuse of authority, leading to socio-economic problems.

“In Pakistan we are under higher threat from corruption. Therefore there is a need to encourage people to stand up in the fight against corruption,” the statement quoted the NAB officer as saying.

Statement further says the minister also suggested NAB to advise all departments to print the message “Say NO to Corruption” on letter heads and files.

Just after the release of the statement rumours started making rounds in the ministry that it can be a new conspiracy of tobacco industry against the decision of the ministry against the pictorial warning.

An official of the ministry of NHS requesting not to be quoted said, “If the proposal is implemented it will decrease the effect of pictorial warning because attention of smoker will be divided between pictorial warning and message against corruption,” he said,

“Ministry can offer that the campaign can be done on the packets of medicines because medicines are used almost in every house,” he said.

A NAB official on the condition of anonymit of , who is not authorized to speak on record, said that NAB is very much serious about the campaign.

“Say no to corruption is written on driving licenses, gas, telephone, electricity, bills, ATM Screens, cinema houses, at airports, hospitals, petrol pumps. Cricket and hockey teams are also cooperating in the campaign,” he said.

“Efforts are being done to write it on the CNICs because corruption is bigger problem than terrorism,” he said.

Executive Coordinator, the Network for Consumer Protection, Nadeem Iqbal showed his concerns over the decision and said that there was no need to implement the proposal.

“It will open a legal pandora box and cigarette companies may start their advertisement under the cover of the slogan and even size of the pictorial warning can be affected,” he said.

Minister NHS Ms Tarar said that it was a proposal which is under consideration. However she ensured that the size of the pictorial warning will not be decreased.

“Alternative option can be given to NAB for the use of slogan and it will be ensured that the attention of the smokers would not be diverted if proposal is implemented,” she said.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2015

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