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Pakistan has taken a major step towards banning all tobacco advertising after tobacco giant, Philip Morris Pakistan, withdrew its petition to Sindh High Court challenging a 2014 statutory regulatory order (SRO) that closes loopholes in the existing ban.

Philip Morris Pakistan had previously successfully applied to Sindh High Court for an interim stay order on the grounds that the Ministry of Health Services Regulation and Coordination [MOH] did not have the power to implement the SRO. In February this year, however, the Supreme Court stated verbally in open court that the MOH does have the authority to legislate on this matter.

In addition, the Supreme Court ordered Sindh High Court to decide the case within two months, effectively speeding up the judicial procedure and leading to Philip Morris Pakistan to withdraw their petition to the court.

Pakistan's Tobacco Control Cell (TCC) has been fighting for the petition to be quashed for two years, with their meager resources pitted against the tobacco industry's wealth and influence.

“By withdrawing their petition, Philip Morris has not only accepted that the terms of the ban will go ahead but they have also effectively acknowledged the regulatory authority of the Ministry of NHSR&C in the wake of 18th amendment,” said Fouad Aslam, technical advisor on tobacco control for the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) in Pakistan.

“We now need to move forward with the momentum these rulings allow and look to support how the ban on advertising can have its greatest impact.”

Tobacco and tobacco product advertising have been banned in Pakistan since the Anti-Tobacco Ordinance came into force in 2002. Over time, the law has been successfully strengthened to close loopholes through various SROs – but the 2014 changes have been on hold for two years as a result of the Philip Morris petition. With the disposal of the petition, the strengthened regulations , including now a complete ban on posters and billboard advertising, can come into effect immediately.

Comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship are proven to reduce tobacco consumption – some countries reported up to 16 percent drops in use after bans were introduced. Find out more about advertising bans here.

 

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