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PMA criticises slight increase in size of pictorial health warning on cigarettes

Updated February 05, 2019

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According to a statement issued by the Pakistan Medical Association, 160,000 people die in the country every year due to tobacco use. — File
According to a statement issued by the Pakistan Medical Association, 160,000 people die in the country every year due to tobacco use. — File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has criticised the slight increase in the size of the pictorial health warning on cigarette packs, and demanded that the warning be enlarged to 85pc of the pack.

The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) on Jan 29 issued a notification increasing the size of the pictorial warning from 50pc to 60pc.

PMA Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad has said the association is concerned by the notification, adding: “The increase should be to 85pc as per the statutory regulatory order issued in January 2015, but it is increasing very slowlydue to the weight of the tobacco industry.”

He said the PMA has been speaking out to raise awareness about the public about the health hazards of tobacco consumption in any form.

According to a statement issued by the association, 160,000 people die in the country every year due to tobacco use, which causes preventable diseases such as bronchitis, coronary disease, diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, lung cancer and oral cancer.

Dr Sajjad said that by reducing tobacco consumption the government could prevent such diseases, adding that the association believes that “prevention is better than cure”.

“We have already demanded and once again demand that 85pc of a cigarette pack should be covered by an anti-smoking pictorial warning. But unfortunately, despite continuous announcements by the Ministry of NHS the pictorial warning on cigarettes packs could not be increased to 85pc,” he said.

The government had issued an SRO in January 2015 to enlarge the pictorial health warning from 40pc to 85pc and replace the image used in the warning within five months. However, four years after the decision, the size of the pictorial health warning was increased to just 50pc.

Earlier this month NHS Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani announced the size would be increased further to 60pc on either side of the pack, and directed cigarette companies to introduce the new packing into the market from June 1.

He had said the ministry was committed to reducing the prevalence of tobacco use in the country. As a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, he said Pakistan would fulfil its international commitments by taking demand and supply reduction measures.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2019