LAHORE: Punjab government has failed to implement the ban on the sale of loose cigarettes in the provincial capital, aimed at keeping children away from smoking by making cigarettes less affordable for them, Pakistan Today has observed.
Following the practice of developing countries where the sale of loose cigarettes is not allowed to ensure that children do not buy them as they cannot afford to buy a whole pack, the Ministry of National Health Services’ (NHS) banned sale of loose cigarettes in March 2018. Its implementation, however, raises questions over the competence of the authorities concerned.
According to a survey conducted by Pakistan Today in Mozang, Defence, Shadman, Shahdara, Garhi Shahu, Mall Road, Johar Town, Davis Road and Queens Road, the sale of loose cigarettes is going unchecked at pan shops and the city authorities are least bothered about it.
Only large stores and tobacco shop chains are following the ban but they too are facilitating their trusted customers while other pan shops are selling loose cigarettes at a slightly increased price.
“The ban on sale of loose cigarettes can deprive us of our livelihood,” Waqas Ahmed, a shopkeeper in the Mozang are of the city told Pakistan Today. “We earn profits of Rs2 to Rs3 on the sale of each loose cigarette. What should we do when not everyone can afford a whole pack? Should we sit idle and wait for those who purchase a full pack of cigarettes?”
Naeem, who runs a pan and cigarette shop on Davis Road, came hard on the government for banning the sale of loose cigarettes and said, “They have made our legal business illegal and we live by the fear of getting caught. How are we supposed to support our families? Should we resort to dacoities and theft?”
All Pakistan Cigarette, Pan and Beverage Retailers’ Association President Haji Mobeen decried the ban on the sale of loose cigarettes and said about 700,000 shopkeepers were selling cigarettes across the country to provide financial support to around three million people. He held that a complete ban on the sale of loose cigarettes would not prove fruitful.
Meanwhile, Lahore Division Commissioner Mujtaba Paracha said that all DCOs and officers concerned had been directed to strictly implement the ban on smoking. “The DCOs and officers have been asked to install ‘smoking is prohibited’ banners at public places. Violation of the ban can lead to a fine as well as imprisonment under Ordinance 2002.”
He said officers would ensure that cigarettes were not sold to children below the age of 18 and the ban was strictly implemented in buses and other public places.
Following the directions of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday, the Punjab government also asked heads of different departments, commissioner, DCOs and DPOs for strict implementation of the smoking ban at workplaces and educational institutions.