ISLAMABAD: Health experts on Sunday said that larger pictorial labelsare more effective in informing about the dangers of smoking.
They were addressing a concluding session of four-day awareness workshop on Pictorial Health Warning in Pakistan, jointly organised by the Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR) and Coalition for Tobacco Control-Pakistan (CTC).
They called for full implementation of new pictorial health warning, covering 85 percent of the cigarette packs from May 30 this year.
They said that with implementation of this warning, announced by the government, Pakistan would be included in the list of those few countries where over 80 percent pictorial health warning is being implemented in order to discourage the smoking and smokers.
WHO Tobacco Control National Professional Officer Shahzad Alam Khan said that warning labels decrease the attractiveness and appeal of cigarettes and help to create an environment where non-smoking is the norm.
He said that strong warning labels also counter the alluring and persuasive images the tobacco industry uses to market their products.
He urged media to play an effective role to educate people about health hazards of tobacco use.
International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Technical Advisor Fouad Aslam said that under Article 11 of WHOs Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, each country should adopt and implement effective packaging and labelling measures within a period of three years after entry into force of the convention.
He said that currently graphic warnings have been adopted by about one third of countries while many countries have increased warning size besides mandated picture warnings.
He added the trend for larger and picture health warnings is growing and unstoppable across the world.
He said that researches have proved the effectiveness of graphic health warnings on smokers as a pack-a-day smoker would see the warnings at least 7300 times per year.
Similarly, graphic warnings detract from the pack image, inform smokers, motivate quitting and reduce number of times people smoke while it costs little to governments and minimal costs to industry.
He said that plain packaging which is now being introduced in some developed countries would prohibit brand colours, logos and design elements on packages, and would require that packages only come in a standard shape and format.
He said under plain packaging, health warnings would continue to appear. The brand portion of the package would have the same colour on all packs while text would have the same location, font, style and size.
He said that plain packaging would curb the tobacco industrys use of the package as a promotional vehicle, increase the effectiveness of package warnings, curb package deception and would decrease tobacco use.
He said that both the Articles 1142 and 1343 guidelines under the FCTC recommend countries to consider implementing plain packaging.
Pakistan National Heart Association (PNHA) General Secretary Sanaullah Ghumman said that high smoking rates contribute to a significant number of early deaths, high healthcare costs and productivity loss.
He said that the major cause of increasing heart disease is unhealthy life-style mainly due to use of tobacco. He added comprehensive warning labels are effective among youth and there is evidence that they prevent smoking initiation.
He said that research shows that large, graphic warning labels cause smokers to smoke fewer cigarettes, avoid smoking in front of children and pregnant women, and smoke less at home.
Coalition for Tobacco Control National Coordinator Khurram Hashmi said that Pakistan has introduced 40 percent pictorial health warning in 2010 and now new pictorial health warning covering 85 percent of the cigarette packs would be implemented from May 30.
He said that tobacco warnings significantly decrease the odds of being a smoker and significantly increase the odds of making a quit attempt.
Executive Director, Society for Alternative Media and Research, Mazhar Arif said that the organisation is working for the implementation of FCTC provisions translated in tobacco control laws and their enforcement.
He said that the organisation is providing technical support to authorities for legislative measures and their effective enforcement to reduce tobacco consumption in the country.