In days when Pakistan is among the top four countries with rising tobacco use, and it loses 100,000 people because of smoking, the tobacco giants in the country have secured one more interest. In a recent report that has made it to newspapers reveal that the two companies have successfully persuaded the government not to implement more prominent health warnings on cigarette packs. The successful persuasion is a classic case of cost and benefit analysis the government has done.

Pakistan is a country where already people do not enjoy state of the art health facilities. Add to this is the government kneeling down to the demands of the cigarette giants who make profits while pushing people to catch lungs and heart diseases. In the rest of the world, governments are taking maximum steps to discourage people from smoking. The governments usually use graphic cigarette warnings to discourage people from smoking. The studies have shown that these warnings had a statistically significant effect on smoking prevalence and quit attempts. These warnings increase the odds of making a quit attempt in those who smoke and decrease the odds of becoming a smoker.

It is no secret that smoking poses significant health threats to an individual, yet the government is considering the plea of the two manufacturers. The government needs to understand that packaging is the key option of marketing in the hands of tobacco industry nowadays. And to counter the last few remaining marketing options, graphic warning labels (GWLs) and written warnings serve the purpose of conveying information on the health risks that are associated with smoking. Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) recommends that at least 50 % or more of a cigarette pack should carry GWLs and directs that such warnings should not be displayed on less than 30 % of the principal display areas.

Why is the government ignoring the recommendations of the FCTC? Because the industry is one of the largest contributors to the national exchequer, it has secured the right to play with the health of citizens and is entitled to encourage non-smokers to smoke. Whereas the new warning area is according to the FCTC recommendations, still the 35% decrease on companies’ request is the amount of money they put in national finances.

While the companies maintain that covering up 85% of a pack leaves no room for information regarding the brand –information, in this case, means marketing– there are other ways of marketing these companies use to sell their products. Representatives of different tobacco companies frequently outside tobacco shops stop individuals and inform them what cigarette brand will suit them.

The government needs to ask itself this: Is increasing national finances at the cost of national health a deal worth making?