Pakistan - pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs will be enforced from June 1, 2010..

June 3, 2010 - The announcement on World No-Tobacco Day, May 31st that pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs will be enforced from June 1, 2010 is a milestone in the campaign against the hazardous smoking habit. The measure had been in the pipeline since Pakistan signed the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004 which binds states to ban tobacco promotion and advertising. But for pictorial warnings to be effective, there should be an accompanying ban on the sale of individual cigarettes. However, statistics indicate that we have a long way to go before we can kick the habit and become a tobacco-free state.

Background: The country’s healthcare authorities have once again failed to implement the decision regarding enforcing pictorial warnings on cigarette packs from February 1, 2010. Initially, January 1, 2010 had been set as the deadline to implement the decision, which was later extended to February 1, 2010.

The decision to print a pictorial health warning was announced by the Health Ministry on May 31, 2009.

The Network, a leading anti-smoking civil society organisation, criticised the government’s failure to enforce the ministry’s decision, which has again extended the implementation until the end of May, 2010. It said the government had been constantly violating its own decisions to implement the pictorial warnings, suspecting the government was secretly safeguarding the interests of the tobacco industry. The Network Executive Director Dr Arif Azad said almost 273 people die of tobacco-related diseases in Pakistan every day.

Pakistan - govt misses deadline to implement pictorial tobacco warnings..
We have an estimated 25 million smokers, with at least one smoker in 55 per cent of our households. Despite a 2002 Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance, the sale and distribution of cigarettes near educational institutions continue unabated. Posters advertising cigarette-smoking continue to be put up on walls, shops and stores, and smoking scenes are still seen in our television dramas, movies and videos. On the other hand, the mandatory no-smoking signs are nowhere to be seen in many hotels, restaurants and other public places.

There is an immediate need to curb the tobacco habit as evident in the following grim statistics cited at a recent seminar: every year 100,000 people die of tobacco-related causes in Pakistan. Each day over 5,000 smokers are hospitalised. Out of 100 teenage smokers in Pakistan today, 50 will eventually die of tobacco-related diseases. While more effort is needed to enforce existing rules to eliminate smoking, other deterrent measures must also be considered. These include increasing the price of cigarettes and that of other tobacco products such as sheesha (hookah argileh nargile, hubble-bubble, water pipe, hooka, shisha, goza, meassel) and gutka. Measures deterring the use of the latter products are needed to prevent people from turning to cheap, readily available, alternative tobacco products.

Reference: Pakistan - Pictorial warnings Dawn Editorial, 6/2/2010.

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