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In April, national newspapers in Pakistan carried advertisements highlighting once again the strong relationship between the tobacco industry and the government. The local subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT) was bragging about a new park it was about to create in a joint venture with the government; and that the dignitary who had accepted its invitation to lay the foundation stone was none other than the prime minister.
Ghourgushti Environmental Park, in Attock district in the north west of the country, a new monument to BAT’s professed social responsibility, follows other public relations ventures such as the planting of millions of trees and—a bit of an own goal, this one—mobile clinics for patients who have suffered heart attacks and the like in remote areas (see Pakistan: weapons of mass deception.
) . Meanwhile, despite the government’s assurances that it is working hard to control tobacco use, it clearly has little understanding of how the tobacco industry works. Pakistan remains one of the most exciting adventure playgrounds for young tobacco advertisers anywhere in the region.
As the prime minister was busy declaring the environmental project to be under way, tobacco control advocates were busy asking colleagues around to help. Even though local appeals have so far gone unheard, it is hope to educate decision makers in the government that accepting money from the tobacco industry is incompatible with effective tobacco control.