An employee counts cigarettes before packing them in Sidoarjo, Indonesia's East Java province April 7, 2010. REUTERS/Sigit Pamungkas/File Photo

The ban on the sale of loose and smuggled cigarettes to underage introduced by the policy makers to reduce smoking habit among youth are being flouted in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad due to slackness of local administrations.

The bans on detrimental products remained in the pipeline or enforced for short times by the past regimes and then abandoned due to vested interests. The incumbent government, however, seems to be serious in their enforcement for the public health, particularly the youth.

The local administrations of twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were needed to revise their execution strategies to achieve complete ban on the prohibited items, through strict implementation of the rules and regulations.

Senior lawyer Hafiz Khurram Khalid, while talking to APP, said the government had outlawed the sale of loose cigarettes across the country in 2018 keeping in view the move’s high success rate in the western countries and some regional states like Nepal.

The consumption of tobacco at public place, the sale of cigarettes to the underage, and the distribution, sale and storage of tobacco products within 50-meter radius of educational institutions were banned under the ”Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance, 2002, he said.

A senior citizen Iqbal Khan, resident of Sector G-8, said shopkeepers in the capital’s markets and rural areas were openly violating the law by selling loose cigarettes. He said the shopkeepers were openly selling the loose and smuggled cigarettes in various sectors, including G-7, G-8, G-9, I-8, I-9, I-10 and others, besides rural areas of the Islamabad Capital Territory.

Similarly, the tobacco kiosks and shops were operational within the 50 meters jurisdiction of schools, operating in various sectors, he added.

“We are committed to save our generations from the use of the illicit substance (tobacco) that is playing havoc with the lives of our youth,” Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat said while responding to the queries about weak enforcement of the anti-tobacco laws in the federal capital.

He said the ICT (Islamabad Capital Territory) administration was utilizing its all resources to get the law implemented.

The administration had imposed fine of Rs245,600 against the violators during the last fiscal year, besides closing down 40 kiosks in the Sector H- 8 in the recent crackdown against the violators, he added.

Hamza said the administration had stepped up its efforts to sensitize the parents, teachers and citizens to keep the youth at bay from smoking, which was claiming 160, 000 lives every year. Meanwhile, the violation of the same initiatives continues unabatedly in Rawalpindi due to poor enforcement by its local administration.

The bans regarding loose and smuggled cigarettes sale are being flouted by the public across the city including Saddar, Liaquat Bagh, Peoples Colony and others, while the Rawalpindi administration is mulling to enforce ban on plastic bags in next few days.

An official source requesting anonymity said the Rawalpindi administration had been taking action against violators of anti-smoking laws on receiving complaints. In the beginning, he said, the First Information Reports (FIRs) were lodged against the violators while heavy fines had also been imposed.

However, he admitted that some slackness in the implementation of the law in the last couple of months was witnessed. A shopkeeper running a kiosk in G-6 told this agency that the government officials paid visits soon after the announcement of the ban and posted stickers depicting the ban on sale of loose cigarette, particularly to the under-age smokers.

However, the officials stopped visiting the shops to keep check over the violations after the half year of announcement of ban, he added. “If a minor asks us for a cigarette, we provide him as sale of loose cigarettes gives more profit,” he said.