THE Acting Director-General of Health Services, Ministry of Health, has felt the need for initiatives to check and reform people who still flout norms by smoking in public places, despite anti-smoking laws being implemented in Brunei since 2009. In an interview with The Brunei Times, Pg Dr Hj Md Khalifah Pg Hj Ismail said though the country has stepped up an awareness drive against the harmful affects of smoking with banning smoking in public places and increasing tax on cigarettes, there are still a number of people who prefer to ignore the laws.
He revealed that Brunei is currently reviewing its legislation on the use of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs and is awaiting approval from the Attorney-General’s Chambers on copyright issues on the images to be used.
During the opening ceremony of the Third Meeting of the ASEAN Focal Points on Tobacco Control (AFPTC), Pg Dr Hj Md Khalifah, quoting from a 2001 survey, said that 17 per cent of the population in Brunei smoked.
“This means 83 per cent of the people in the country are non-smokers and it is the rights of these people that we are protecting by giving them clean and smoke-free air.”
Asked about the latest figures, Pg Dr Hj Md Khalifah said the data for the second national health and nutritional survey is currently being processed and will be made available within this year. He added that the prevalence of smoking among the population will be revealed in the survey.
He further said that stringent measures need to be taken as the issue of second-hand smoke affecting non-smokers, especially in public areas, is being taken “very seriously” in the Sultanate. Heavy fines are imposed on those who violate the restriction, both on the smokers and owners of the premises, he said.
As a measure to discourage smoking among the younger population, retailers are prevented from selling tobacco products within one kilometre from educational institutions, he added. Among other measures taken were the increase in tax on cigarettes and the use of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs.
“We are glad that there is now an ASEAN Picture Bank, established recently. Hence, we will have pictures closer to our cultures. It may not be appropriate that we use pictures from, say, Western cultures.”
Four out of 10 ASEAN member states use pictorial health warnings on tobacco products packaging. However, each country, in varying political situations, may be facing different problems in implementing pictorial health warnings, and among them is the availability of clear and suitable images.The Brunei Times