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Guilty: Philip Morris Executive in Pakistan Fined for Violating Advertising Rules

April 11, 2012


A civil magistrate in Pakistan has found the head of marketing for Philip Morris Pakistan Ltd. guilty of violating Pakistan’s law that tightly restricts cigarette advertising, criticizing the executive’s excuse that he didn’t believe placing ads in magazines was the same as putting them in the 'press.'

The tobacco executive admitted that the company had run the ads, which included full-page, color advertising for Marlboro cigarettes in many of Pakistan’s leading magazines throughout November and December. But he claimed he didn’t realize these ads were subject to restrictions that limit their size and require pictorial warnings – because he believed the word 'press' did not include magazines.

Civil Magistrate Ahmed Nawaz Domki dismissed that argument. He said the executive, Muhammad Haroon Khan Tarar, was supposed to take 'due care and attention' to follow the law and did not. His 'misinterpretation of the word 'press' is not tenable,' the magistrate said.

He found Tarar guilty and imposed a fine of 5,000 rupees (about $55 U.S. dollars). A second violation carries a potential jail term.

Health advocates are jubilant.

'This is a landmark decision in the tobacco control history of Pakistan,' said Khurram Hashmi, national coordinator of the Coalition for Tobacco Control. 'The tobacco industry, for quite some time now, has been blatantly violating the laws all over the country by covertly offering cash rebates to its consumers and has been trying to influence the government to undo what has been achieved so far.'

Pakistan ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004 and has implemented tobacco-control policies including smoke-free laws and large, graphic warnings on cigarette packs.

The magistrate’s ruling that Philip Morris violated the law is a critical demonstration that the restrictions will be enforced – despite the tobacco industry’s efforts to flout them.