Islamabad: The Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO), in collaboration with Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, organized an awareness march at the National Press Club with the slogan “Tobacco Free Pakistan”.
The aim was to counter British American Tobacco’s ‘Battle of the Minds’ competition, a challenge aimed at young people with a hefty cash prize.
The SSDO organized the march to counter this campaign, which it considered a thinly veiled publicity stunt, with the aim of promoting its tobacco products to young people, which are extremely harmful to health. The goal was to bring all ordinary citizens together on a single platform where they could collectively voice their opinions and let their thoughts be heard by mainstream media and the general public.
SSDO mobilized and brought together citizens from diverse backgrounds such as civil society organizations, journalists, lawyers and activists.
The most energetic participants were young people, who strongly protested against BAT’s campaign and pledged to ensure a tobacco-free Pakistan. The students expressed that smoking has incredibly dangerous health consequences, leading to disease and premature death. One student said, “The worst thing about smoking is that not only does it have negative consequences for the smoker, but second-hand smoke is just as deadly. This is why we want the government to ensure that public smoking bans are strictly enforced.”
Speaking at the event, Syed Kausar Abbas, Executive Director of SSDO said, “BAT’s campaign must be firmly waged. They try to manipulate young people into using their products. However, I am delighted to see that young people are the most active participants in this march, advocating for the promotion of healthy behaviors.
Many attendees expressed their gratitude to SSDO for organizing such an event where people from all walks of life were able to come together to raise their voices against Big Tobacco and give them a platform to verbalize their thoughts. They also pledged to do their part to ensure a tobacco-free Pakistan and urged the government to also ensure stricter enforcement of compliance laws.