Tobacco lobby active against enhancing pictorial warnings on cigarette packets

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Zubair Qureshi

Human Development Foundation (HDF), Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child (SPARC), Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) and Incision Films jointly held a press conference on the issue of 85pc graphic health warning on cigarette packs in the wake of a recent Islamabad High Court (IHC) order.
In its order the court directed Ministry of Health to decide in two weeks whether to implement or rescind the notification.
During the hearing Ministry of Health had admitted pressures being exerted from the tobacco industry lobby and various groups.
While addressing the press conference CEO HDF, Azhar Saleem stated that graphic health warning on cigarette packs was a proven and cost effective measure to create mass awareness and reduce tobacco consumption.
The significance of these health warnings has been proven through different research studies that show a reduction in consumption rate and intent to quit smoking altogether. Under the FCTC guidelines, signatories are required to enhance graphic health warning on cigarette pack with clear textual warning as well. FCTC also requires the signatories to not be influenced by the tobacco industry when formulating laws and policies of public health interest. However, this has not been the case here as government bodies are easily influenced by tobacco industry.
Country representative of CTFK Malik Imran said tobacco industry was actively strategizing to counter the tobacco control measures and influences government departments who work for tobacco control. He stated that other countries in Asia are effortlessly working to enhance the graphic health warning on cigarette packs whereas we are still under the influence of tobacco industry. The admission of Ministry of Health to succumbing to the influence of tobacco industry is a clear picture of how easily the tobacco industry lobby can influence law making and implementing bodies in Pakistan.