Ministry wants plea against tobacco advertising ban dismissed

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination (MNHSRC) has pleaded through its detailed reply to the Sindh High Court (SHC) that the petition filed by Philip Morris International (PMI) calling for lifting of the ban on tobacco advertisements, promotional activities may be dismissed, sources told Daily Times on Saturday.
Source said that any attempt to modify or annul the implementation of the notification would not only render Pakistan in violation of its international treaty obligation but would also seriously penalise all other stakeholders who have taken significant steps to comply with the law. 
It is pertinent to mention that the said notification was issued more than five months ago and is to be implemented from May 31. And it is apparent that at this last moment non-enforcement of the notification would be akin to punishing the other stakeholders in the country, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers who have already modified their business accordingly, sources said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about 274 people lose their lives in Pakistan every day due to tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, throat cancer, heart attack, tuberculoses and mouth cancer. 
Every year almost 100,000 Pakistanis lose their lives to tobacco-related diseases, while about five million lives are lost globally per year, the sources claimed. 
Sources disclosed that global manufacturer of tobacco products PMI has filed a petition in the SHC seeking lifting of the ban on tobacco advertisements, promotional activities, and has declared the Federal Ministry of MNHSRC and Committee on Tobacco Advertisement and Guidelines (CTAG) illegal and unconstitutional. 
The PMI also pleaded that Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance 2002 and all other tobacco promotional regulations are also unconstitutional, and as an investor they have the right to advertise their cigarette products, sources said. The Supreme Court of Pakistan, in its decision dated October 30, 2006, has already directed all the executive authorities of the country to ensure the strict and effective implementation of the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Ordinance 2002, sources added.
A senior official of the ministry concerned, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the petition filed by the PMI apparently stated that the company has been seeking the freedom to advertise and promote tobacco products. 
The petition filed by the cigarette manufacturer is specifically aimed at nullifying the recent tobacco advertisement restrictions imposed by the ministry, some of which are to come into effect on May 31, coinciding with the World No-Tobacco Day. 
According to the text of the filed petition, these restrictions placed by the Ministry of Health National Health, Services, Regulations and Coordination are “irrational, unduly harsh and extremely unreasonable”. Hearing of this petition is fixed for May 28 in the Sindh High Court, ironically just three days before the World No-Tobacco Day.

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