Health experts demand plain cigarette packaging for effective health warning

ISLAMABAD:Tobacco control and health advocates on Monday urged the government to develop a legal framework and implement standardised plain packaging as an effective tobacco control measure to reduce attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products to consumers.

Speakers at a seminar titled “Defiant Tobacco Industry and Future of Graphic Health Warning (GHW)” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), also demanded the government to strengthen and implement its existing laws related to tobacco control and graphic health warnings (GHW), a press release said.

Deputy Director General (Health), Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Minhaj us Siraj said the tobacco industry was only interested in maximising their profit while playing with the lives of our young generation.

He said the industry was so powerful that it influence our policies significantly, he added.

“The case of Graphic Health Warning (GHW) in Islamabad High Court (IHC), which is pending for almost past 5 years, is a classic example of tobacco industry’s delaying tactics”, he lamented, adding all segments of society would have to fight together to help save the lives of our future generation from this menace and should strive for tobacco-free generation.

Waseem Iftikhar Janjua, Senior Research Associate, SDPI said despite the fact that every year in Pakistan 160,100 people die due to the use of tobacco products, over 24 million users continue to use tobacco products, smoking over 85 billion sticks every year.

“To reduce and control of use of tobacco products, standardised plain packaging is an effective demand reduction measure that can reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products, limits misleading packaging and labeling, and increases the effectiveness of health warnings,” he said.

Sheikh Faqeer Muhammad, Director Division of Controlled Drugs, Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) said since tobacco did not come under the ambit of drugs, therefore DRAP had no direct role in regulating the tobacco products. However, on the treatment side, DRAP can only register and regulate those drugs which are meant to be used as a treatment of tobacco-related diseases.

He said raising awareness among our youth about the dire consequences of smoking tobacco products was direly needed to prevent them from dreadful diseases such as cancer.

Syed Ali Wasif Naqvi, Project Associate, SDPI while moderating the seminar said though Pakistan was a signatory to Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) since 2004 and the government had issued multiple Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) and made laws targeting the smoking spaces, ban on advertisement and Graphic Health Warnings (GHW), but the major problems was lack of implementation.