Malta - graphic warnings on cigarette packs by the middle of next year..

June 7, 2010 - Malta signed on June 16, 2003 and ratified WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC, the first world public health treaty, on September 24, 2003. The WHO FCTC was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. (About WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) Malta is one of a dozen European Union (EU) countries have introduced total bans on smoking in enclosed public places and work places, including bars and restaurants.

To comply with Article 11 of this treaty Malta will have images showing the effects of smoking printed on cigarette packs sold in local shops from the middle of next year. (Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) requires Parties to the Convention to implement large, rotating health warnings on all tobacco product packaging and labelling.)

The warnings will underline the increased risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer, infertility and impotence among smokers, and the harm done to unborn babies and children. Three in every four Europeans have said they support picture health warnings on cigarette packs, according to a Eurobarometer survey.

Speaking at a press conference to mark No Tobacco Day yesterday, May 31, 2010 the Malta Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Department head Dr. Charmaine Gauci said there were 372 deaths attributable to smoking in 2008 (population of Malta - 411,950 in 2008).

Despite the dangers, a fifth of respondents in the last Health Interview Survey, carried out in Malta in 2008, said they had smoked daily for at least a year. Smoking was most common among 45- to 54-year-olds.

A quarter of those interviewed, aged 18 and over, said they were still exposed to second-hand smoke, either at home or outside, despite a ban on smoking in public places introduced in 2004. Health Minister Joe Cassar said smoking in bars and other public places was a sign of disrespect towards others. "We do not need to enforce any law if we all showed respect," he said.

Dr Cassar said 1.3 million [billion] people around the world smoked and every year 4.9 million people died as a result. "Half of smokers risk dying because of smoking-related illness," he said.

He said health professionals were duty-bound to inform people about the dangers associated with smoking. Research had shown that even a short intervention by health professionals could be very effective in helping people stop smoking. Dr Cassar said that, apart from one-to-one help, professionals could also help on a community level by preparing plans in support of smoking regulations in public places and help smokers kick the habit. "Professionals should serve as a model and the Health Department is helping them to stop smoking," he said. Health care workers were also given courses allowing them to help others quit smoking. He said restrictions on smoking in public places had helped more people quit smoking, and other countries were adopting similar laws.

The Health Department yesterday announced the three winners of its biannual Quit And Win Competition. Joseph Magro, 34, Reuben Hayman, 23, and Claudine Psaila, 41, managed to stop smoking.

Reference: Cigarette packets to carry shocking images next year, Cynthia Busuttil,, 6/1/2010.

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