Warnings on hold

    Health warnings photo
    Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen

    Pakistan’s Coalition for Tobacco Control is calling on the government to enforce regulations requiring cigarette packs to carry graphic health warnings taking up 85 percent of both the front and back panels, according to a story in the Pakistan Observer.

    The regulations appear to be two years old.

    The national co-ordinator of the coalition, Khurram Hashmi, said on Sunday that the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Co-ordination (NHSRC), had demonstrated exemplary leadership by introducing in January 2015 graphic warnings increased from 40 percent to 85 percent on the front and back of cigarette packs.

    He said this government initiative had set an example within the Asia region and demonstrated that Pakistan was one of the few countries that prioritized the health of its citizens over corporate interests.

    After the government’s announcement, India had been encouraged to enforce a similar policy of enhanced graphic warnings on cigarette packs, he said, and, as of June 2016, those warnings had started to appear on cigarette packs in India.

    However, Hashmi said, despite government efforts, there had been a delay in the implementation of the enhanced graphic warnings in Pakistan that had resulted in a major set-back for tobacco control efforts by the government.

    Meanwhile, Dr. Sobia Faisal, a public health expert, said that Pakistan had about 19.1 million tobacco users, made up of 31.8 percent of the country’s men and 5.8 percent of its women.

    Tobacco she said harmed people’s health, the treasury, and the spirit of citizens. The tobacco epidemic in Pakistan required urgent attention.

    Faisal said that tobacco companies used packaging as their major marketing tool to make tobacco appear appealing, while distracting consumers from the reality of how tobacco destroyed health.

    Graphic warnings were a low-cost method of warning tobacco users and non-users about the harms of tobacco, and they were effective in motivating smokers to quit.