ISLAMABAD: Health activists have urged the government to increase space for a health warning on cigarette packs to 70 per cent.

They were attending a press briefing, organised by the Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (Sparc).

Graphic health warnings (GHW) on cigarette packs are a proven and cost-effective measure to create mass awareness and reduce tobacco consumption, the briefing’s participants were informed.

The country representative of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Malik Imran, said developed countries had successfully protected their youth from smoking by introducing plain packaging of cigarette, whereas Pakistan was still under the influence of the tobacco industry. He urged the government to increase the area upon which graphic health warnings were printed on cigarette packets.

Method is cost-effective measure to create awareness about risks of smoking, experts say

Sparc Programme Manager Khalil Ahmed said according to existing law, the graphic health warning must be 60pc of the packet size. The increase in size was announced in a statutory regulatory order (SRO) in 2017.

“It is disappointing that the packet warning size in Pakistan is still less than other countries in the region. Nepal has a 95pc packet warning size, India is at 85pc while, Sri Lanka has 80pc. The graphical warning plays a vital role in deterring any potential smokers, and also reflect a country’s commitment to public health policies,” he said.

Chromatic Trust Chief Executive Officer Shariq Mahmood Khan said: “Already 1,200 children start smoking in our country daily. Health warnings are significant as they reduce the consumption rate and intent to quit smoking altogether.”

It is worth mentioning here that the graphic health warning was introduced in Pakistan in 2010 and the picture had to be changed in 2011 but could not be replaced. In January 2015, the government in a major development, issued an SRO stating that the size of GHW, on packets of cigarettes, will be increased from 40pc to 85pc and the picture would be replaced within the next five months. However, the decision could not be implemented and later the SRO was withdrawn.

According to health experts, 75pc of lung diseases are caused by smoking. More than 6.9 million people have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Pakistan and it is expected that soon this will be the third leading cause of death from chronic diseases worldwide.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2021

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