ISLAMABAD - Cigarette manufacturers have devised innovative ways to advertise their products, especially in an ineffective monitoring and enforcement environment, making mockery of the new guidelines introduced by the Ministry of National Health, Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSR&C).

The eight guidelines, effective from 31st May 2014, were issued in the form of an SRO on 31st December 2013. They are meant to reinforce the existing laws to counter advertising initiatives of certain cigarette companies known for such activities in branding their products by adopting unique methods that bypass prevalent rules and regulations that prohibit any kind of advertising of tobacco products. These new guidelines clearly stipulate that tobacco or tobacco product advertisements in any form of media through any medium shall not be allowed.

However, even after four months of the SRO, various cigarette companies continue to go against the existing anti-tobacco promotion laws in order to market their products. The government has already issued show cause notices to different cigarette manufacturing units and directed them to stop all illegal cigarette promotion activities. These companies were reported to be involved in advertising their brands through different means including advertisement boards on shops, free sampling, consumer incentive schemes which are clear violations of “The Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Ordinance 2002”.

While anti-tobacco activists appreciate the introduction of new stringent laws that bar the cigarette manufacturers from all kinds of tobacco or tobacco product advertising using any means or measure, they also believe that an effective control and enforcement mechanism is a necessity to ensure implementation of anti-tobacco promotion laws.

Compliance of these new tobacco advertising rules and guidelines by the tobacco industry will be a challenge and the Ministry of NHSR&C will have to be ever vigilant to ensure compliance of these regulations in letter and in spirit.