Activists urge ministry to increase graphic health warning on cigarette packs

ISLAMABAD           –         Anti-tobacco activists on Thursday urged Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) to increase the graphic health warning on cigarette packs upto 85 percent to discourage smoking in country.

Human Development Foundation (HDF), Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child (SPARC), Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) and Incision Films jointly held a press conference today at National Press Club, Islamabad.

The press conference was held after Islamabad High Court hearing on the issue of 85 percent graphic health warning on cigarette packs, in which the court gave Ministry of Health two weeks to take the decision whether to implement or rescind the notification. 

Speakers said that according to the existing law, the graphic health warning must be 60 percent of the pack size. The increase in size was announced in an SRO in 2017 that replaced the 2015 notification that would have increased the size to 85 percent of packaging.

The health advocates emphasised that the pack warning size in Pakistan is still less than other countries in the region. Nepal has 95 percent pack warning size, India is at 85 percent while Sri Lanka has 80 percent size. Pack warning play a role in deterring any potential smokers and also reflect a country’s commitment to public health policies. 

HDF and its partners urge the government to enhance graphic health warning on cigarette packs. It is the duty of the government bodies to make policies and laws in the greater interest of its citizens, keeping their public health as a top priority.

Mr. Azhar Saleem, CEO HDF, stated that graphic health warning on cigarette packs is a proven and cost effective measure to create mass awareness and reduce tobacco consumption. The significance of these health warnings have been proven through different research studies that show a reduction in consumption rate and intent to quit smoking altogether.

Sajjad Cheema, Executive Director SPARC, stated that tobacco consumption starts at an early age, mostly among children. Along with strict control measure that bans sale of cigarettes to minors, we need to focus on advocating for enhanced graphic health warnings on cigarette packs. Through these graphic health warnings we can sensitise masses on the health hazards of first hand and second hand smoking.

Under the FCTC guidelines, signatories are required to enhance graphic health warning on cigarette pack with clear textual warning as well. FCTC also requires the signatories to not be influenced by the tobacco industry when formulating laws and policies of public health interest. However, this has not been the case here as government bodies are easily influenced by tobacco industry.

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