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Experts call for ensuring health warnings on tobacco products

ISLAMABAD (Tariq Ullah Wardak): The implementation of laws pertaining to health warnings on tobacco products in letter and spirit is need of the hour besides translating these messages in the local languages for the consumption of common people. The experts from health and social sector stated this while sharing their views during a webinar titled, “Graphic Health Warning – Combustible, Smokeless and New Novel Products,” organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Co-founder and Secretary-General of Tobacco Free Jordan, Ms Larissa AL-Uar, informed the participants that in Jordan during last one year 9027 deaths occurred due to smoking. She further said that there were many laws and regulations in Jordan regarding the pictorial health warnings which did not prove effective. However, she said, “we need to enhance the effectiveness of these laws and the campaign for pictorial health warnings, especially about the products being used in the rural areas of the country.”

National Focal Point for Illicit Trade, Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health, Dr Samra Mazhar, said that delay in the implementation of pictorial health warnings on tobacco products was due to the pandemic which has halted the entire process. She appreciated the suggestions that the warnings should appear on all products, and these should be in all local languages to make them understandable for everyone.

Mr Azhar Saleem, Chief Executive Officer, Human Development Foundation (HDF), lamented that Pakistan has several laws regarding tobacco products, but their implementation is lacking. The graphic warning, he said, is an innovative campaign and 85% of the products should bear these warnings.

Presenting regional perspective, Dr Sahana Hedge Shetiya, Head of Department of Public Health at Dr D Y Patil Dental College and Hospital, Pune, India, said that India has banned all types of E-cigarettes in 2019. She asserted that there should be a strict enforcement of the pictorial warnings on all the smokeless tobacco products.

Earlier, Mr Waseem Janjua, SDPI Senior Researcher, highlighted that in Pakistan tobacco products displayed 50% textual health warnings with pictures. He added that the warnings need to be rotated every year in the local languages for the public consumption. Moreover, the use of navel tobacco products and E-cigarettes has been on the increase in the country while minimal tax on these products reflects a tacit approval of the government, he added.

Syed Ali Wasif Naqvi, Head of Centre for Health Policy & Innovation, SDPI, also highlighted different aspects of the issue and emphasized that the health warning pictures on the tobacco products need to be backed by appropriate laws and implementation.