By Pyae Thet Phyo
Packaging for cigarettes made in Myanmar will soon bear photos and text cautioning against the deleterious health effects of consuming tobacco products, Health Minister U Than Aung said earlier this week.
“We have drawn up a notification to include health warnings in pictures and text covering 75 percent of a cigarette package on both sides, in accordance with international agreements,” U Than Aung said at a national-level conference on the issue of tobacco packaging on August 24.
“It has now been amended according to suggestions from legal experts, and we will bring it into effect soon.”
Daw Nan Naing Naing Shein, deputy director of the Basic Health Division under the Public Health Department, said the notification has been amended based on suggestions from the Attorney General’s Office and is in the final stages of preparation.
“The notification has been sent to the Ministry of Health and could be enacted after the ministry approves it,” she said, adding, “We would like it to be approved by the end of this month, but if not then by the end of the year.”
Daw Nan Naing Naing Shein said the notification will be enacted within six months of approval, which will give ample time for the approved warning pictures to be distributed to cigarette and tobacco factories.
The pictures, selected by the Ministry of Health, show patients suffering from cancer caused by the use of tobacco products, as well as children victimised by respiratory disease from secondhand smoke.
“We imitated the pictures used in other countries, and also used pictures from Myanmar,” Daw Nan Naing Naing Shein said.
The conference on health warnings on tobacco products attracted experts from Myanmar and the World Health Organization, who discussed the pros and cons of various implementation plans, and experiences of other countries that have instituted warning labels.
U Than Aung noted at the conference that in 2013, WHO member countries agreed to six tactics for reducing the consumption of tobacco products.
“One of these tactics was to implement packaging with pictures and text concerning the consequences of using cigarettes and tobacco products. It is a simple but effective tactic,” he said.
According to health ministry statistics, 59 percent of deaths in Myanmar in 2014 could be attributed to non-infectious diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer.
“The main culprit for the rise in deaths from non-infectious diseases is cigarette and tobacco products,” Daw Nan Naing Naing Shein said.
Translation by Khant Lin Oo