Tobacco control advocates demand enforcement of 85% Pictorial Health Warning on Cigarette Packs

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ISLAMABAD: The Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan (CTC-PAK), a coalition of 250+ partners from all four provinces of Pakistan, call for immediate enforcement of 85 per cent pictorial health warning (PHW) on cigarette packs as per the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination’s notification announced in February 2015. The partners expressed their concern about the tobacco industry’s influence over the government authorities’, particularly NHSRC to compromise the new enhanced 85 per cent PHW. They lauded the petition filed by Society for Alternative Media and Research, the parent organization of CTC-PAK, in Islamabad High Court in this regard.

CTC-Pak is striving for a conducive environment to build an interactive relationship between government implementation authorities and civil society organizations at the district level for effective implementation of tobacco control laws. “Pakistan had come a long way since 2004 when it became one of the first 40 signatory countries to curb the use of tobacco and was also among the first few countries in South Asia region to adopt larger health warning. Now, the tobacco industry is manipulating the authorities to compromise on people health over monetary interest which is why we decided to approach the courts seeking justice.” Khurram Hashmi, National Coordinator, said. “Already Supreme Court banned tobacco use through shisha and Sindh High Court gave orders to strictly compliance ban on tobacco products advertisements.”

“Enforcement of the new bigger pictorial pack warning will bring greater awareness about the serious and adverse health hazards of tobacco use especially among youth, children and illiterate.” Khurram Hashmi, the National Coordinator of CTC-Pak, said. “We’re not alone, look at India. The Supreme Court in India on May 4 directed tobacco companies to implement the 85% PHW that was introduced on April 1st, 2016. Now the tobacco industry in India progressively producing packs carrying the new enhanced health warning.” It’s significant to note that other South Asian countries including India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka who, like Pakistan, are also signatories of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control who are finally in the implementation phase where Pakistan is still struggling to secure the fundamental right to health for its citizens.

In a country like Pakistan, where most of the tobacco users are from the rural areas and are illiterate, pictorial warnings are scientifically proven to be stronger than text warnings. Needless to say, tobacco is the biggest menace of the healthcare of the country. More money is spent on treating Tobacco-related illness than the revenue generation.

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