PM urged to enforce enhanced size of health warnings on cigarette packs

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Zubair Qureshi

Hundreds of Health Professionals have urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to enforce the long-pending decision of raising size of pictorial warning on cigarette packs. It would go a long way in saving our children from the clutches of death, they said. Last week more than 150 public health professionals added to the voice of more than 150 other health professionals who approached the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with the plea to enforce health ministry’s two years old decision of raising graphic health warning on cigarette packs to 85%.
The demand has been made in a petition filed by a large number of public health professionals including doctors, oncologists, pediatricians, cardio physicians, pulmonologists, neurologists, dentists etc who have approached the PM.
Those who sent petition to the PM for raising GHW include various health and research facilities across Pakistan such as the National Alliance for Tobacco Control, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre and other renowned medical institutes and hospitals, King Edward Medical University, Lahore; Punjab Institute of Cardiology, Lahore; Jinnah Hospital, Lahore; Gulab Devi Postgraduate Medical Institute, Lahore; Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore; Sheikh Zayed Medical College and Hospital, Rahimyar Khan; Ojha Institute of Chest Disease, Karachi; Ayub Medical and Dental College, Abbottabad; Women Medical College, Abbottabad; Health Services Academy, Islamabad; Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad; Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad; Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi; National Institute of Child Health, Karachi; Liaquat National Hospital, Karachi; Aga Khan University, Karachi; Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Karachi; Korangi Medical Centre, TB Control Programme (Sindh), Karachi Medical and Dental College, OMI Hospital, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi and the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar.
The decision to raise the size of GHW on cigarette packs was announced by the Minister of State for NHSRC Saira Afzal Tarar on February 11, 2015 but to date it has not yet been enforced and the size of GHW remains to 40pc.
Nadeem Iqbal, CEO of TheNetwork for Consumer Protection, a non-profit health rights organsation in a statement here on Wednesday said Ms Tarar’s decision was the single most initiative that was hailed by national and international health community as it can make a large number of smokers to quit and substantial number of children to not to initiate smoking.
Quoting the government statistics, Nadeem said that 73pc of smokers of 15-24 years have been noticing health warnings and 33% of them are thinking of quitting because of GHW. The number of these people will increase if size of GHW is increased to 85%.
“International studies corroborate that tobacco package provides a educational opportunity to educate smokers on the hazards of tobacco. A smoker who smokes at least a pack daily is exposed to images printed on packs at least 20 times a day (7,000 times a year), said he. It means that enhanced GHW provides 20 opportunities a day to the health ministry to deliver anti-smoking messages at critical junctures – at the point of purchase and the time of smoking. The use of pictorial images enhances the impact of the public health message,” said Nadeem.
In Pakistan nearly 110,000 deaths are attributed each year to diseases caused by tobacco. Around 1,200 children initiate smoking daily and with every passing day the burden of tobacco epidemic is escalating. The incidence of lung and oral cancers are also on rise. The healthcare cost incurred due to cancers and other tobacco related diseases is manifold and exceeds revenues generated from tobacco industry.