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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has written letters to the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration and the chief secretaries of all provinces to implement the law regarding enlarged pictorial health warning (PHW) on packets of cigarettes.

The letters have been sent after observing violation of the rules which suggested that after June 2018 only packets of cigarettes having 50pc PHW can be sold in the market.

However, tobacco firms were violating the law and selling packets with 40pc PHWs covering.

“Ministry of NHS, on 19th December 2017, prescribed new PHW on cigarette packets and outers. The PHW covers 50pc of front side and 50pc of rear side of cigarette packets and outers. The notification has come into force from 1st June, 2018.

“Moreover, no design features of cigarette packets shall contribute towards reducing effectiveness of the warning. However, ministry has observed violation of said notification,” stated the letter signed by Director General Dr Asad Hafeez.

It added that cigarette packets with no or less than 50pc PHW were available in the market. Moreover, some companies had printed PHW with distorted colour scheme along with printing of promotional messages which was a clear violation.

All the authorities, including IGB Islamabad, have been asked to issue directions to the relevant authorities to launch a crackdown/legal action against violators of the law.

Technical head of the tobacco control cell at the ministry Dr Ziauddin told Dawn that companies had to increase the PHW by 85pc of the size of packets. The companies at a meeting of the federal cabinet had given an understanding and also written to the prime minister to allow them to increase the size of PHW by 50pc.

“They were allowed to increase the size by 50pc of the packet instead of 85pc but the companies are not willing. One tobacco company even unsuccessfully tried to obtain a stay order from the Sindh High Court and is still not willing to increase the size.

Another company has increased the size of PHW but changed the colour combination of the picture due to which goals of the PHW cannot be achieved,” he said.

Dr Zia said PHW should be on the topmost part of the packet but a company has shifted the picture to the middle due to which the smoker cannot properly see it while holding the packet as his thumb would be placed on the picture.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2018