ISLAMABAD: The Network for Consumer Protection has launched a campaign to engage students of leading schools of the twin cities to make films on tobacco control and retrieve the social media space occupied by the tobacco industry. In this regard, a special ceremony was held at Beaconhouse School, Rawalpindi, to award filmmakers who produced tobacco control films and received maximum likes on Facebook. The first position was bagged by Qasim Mehmood, while the second and third prizes went to Muhammad Ammad and his team and Muhammad Faraz and his team, respectively.Interestingly, there was no jury to evaluate the competing films. Instead, Facebook likes were used as a criterion to select the best three. Explaining the theme of the competition, Dr Maria Ahmed Qureshi said that the presence of a large number of youth in Pakistani is quite mouth-watering for the big tobacco industry. Multinational brands are popular amongst the youth, who consume such brands as fashion trend, she added.Our youth is predominantly influenced by multinational tobacco brands which are targeting youth by using different tactics, such as providing colorful posters with catchy slogans to shop keepers, power walls, retailer incentives, branding of shops, well designed and brightly coloured cigarette packs without any pictorial warning and other promotional activities, she said. One of the biggest problems that our country is facing now days is unrestricted sale of the smuggled brands in Pakistan. The products of BAT and PMI like Marlboro, Dunhill, Benson & Hedges are popular amongst our youth who are attracted to such brands either as fashion trend or through peer pressure, without knowing the dangers of smoking, Dr Maria added. These imported smuggled brands do not conform to the rules set by Pakistani authorities on tobacco industry, as there is no pictorial warning on them neither are the health warnings in local language, she said.But it’s unfortunate, Dr. Maria lamented, that whereas these families’ hospital bills will increase, so will the government’s revenue. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2014 shows that 13.3 per cent boys and 6.6 per cent girls (aged 13-15 years) are currently tobacco smokers. Evidence shows that smoking trends are on the rise, and if current trends continue, we will soon be facing an uncontrollable tobacco epidemic where the productivity of our future generations will be greatly reduced due to deadly tobacco related causes such as cancers, heart disease, respiratory diseases, damages to the nervous system, infertility while the pocket of the multinational’s will keep on expanding. The winners of the contest also got a chance to express their views. Qasim said it was great experience making a film on tobacco control; tobacco use is a serious threat for health, and I feel proud now to be a tobacco control advocate myself. Ammad said it was quite challenging to build a comparison between a smoker and a non-smoker and to convince the audiences that non-smoking is the preferred option. “It was a great opportunity to learn about the tobacco industry’s tactics to promote smoking in our schools,” he added.Faraz said that from here, we will go straight to a party “where we will establish that youth can have fun without tobacco”. He promised to play a pro-active role to end the menace of smoking from schools. One of the success stories of the intervention was that a group of students were inspired to establish their own studio where they will be producing anti-smoking movies and placing it on social the media.Sidra Qasim, the principal of Beaconhouse School said activities where students are involved directly in the entire process from understanding the concept and developing a short film to becoming an advocate of that idea gets deeply ingrained in their minds.“Such competitions also encourage students to explore their abilities, polish their ideas and promote public health objectives. Children should not waste their parents’ money on purchasing tobacco products as this will be a deception not only towards their parents but to themselves as well,” Sidra said. She appreciated the effort of The Network and said such collaborative initiatives should continue for the betterment of youth.This competition served as a great opportunity for students to express their talent, expertise and ideas through short films. The multinational tobacco industry is harming Pakistan’s future by failing to curb the illegal import of these cigarettes, and not spending anything on the health issues which are being caused to our nation’s youth by their cigarettes. They continue to send their profits abroad to their parent companies while Pakistan suffers negative repercussions. The best advocates to spread these messages are children themselves, and such efforts should be appreciated by the government and notice taken against such brands which are harming our countries future.