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October 26, 2017

Civil society seeks PM’s intervention for bigger graphic health warnings on cigarette packs


October 26, 2017

Islamabad :Tobacco control advocates have appealed to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to save the lives of millions of Pakistani youth through immediate enforcement of the 85% Pictorial Health Warning (PHW) on cigarette packs, which has been lingering on since January 2015.

The demand was made at a picketing session organised by the Coalition for Tobacco Control - Pakistan (CTC-Pak) in front of Islamabad Press Club, with dozens of tobacco control advocates including coalition partners, health workers, community leaders, mobilisers, students and media personnel participating in the fight against tobacco industry and struggle for protection against the debilitating but preventable tobacco-related diseases.

The tobacco control advocates urged the Prime Minister to give immediate direction to the Minister of National Health Services, Regulation, and Coordination (MNHSRC) and law enforcement agencies to ensure the implementation of enhanced PHW on cigarettes packs, and to take strict legal action against violators of tobacco control laws.

“More than 100,000 people are dying annually due to tobacco consumption which means around 300 deaths of Pakistanis daily,” Atta Ur Rehman, Chairman of FARZ Association and CTC-Pakistan coalition partner from Rawalpindi told the media. “We are here to commemorate SRO. 86(KE)/2009 issued by the Ministry of Health, which mandated PHWs covering 40% of the front and back sides of cigarette packets. In January 2015, the Government of Pakistan announced to increase the size of PHW from 40% to 85% but the decision is yet to materialize!” Atta said.

In 2015, the Ministry of Health made decisions to amend rules and notify enhanced PHW from 40% to 85% size, to be printed on cigarettes packs and outers, vide Notification No S.R.O. 22 (KE)/2015 which is consistent with Pakistan’s obligations under Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“For last two and half years, the Ministry of Health has failed to enforce the implementation of the above mention notification. Due to the mala fide interest of the government to favour the tobacco industry and with decisive negligence, we have yet to see the new warning for more than two years now,” Khurram Hashmi, the National Coordinator of CTC-Pakistan said.

The coalition termed this “decisive negligence of the government” as “lamentable,” saying due to delay in implementation of 85% PHW, many Pakistani youth are being exposed to poisonous cigarettes causing deaths on a daily basis. Under the Constitution of Pakistan, the state is responsible for the protection of the health of its citizen rather that favouring firms that are committing heinous crimes.

“We urge the Prime Minister to intervene and take action to protect our next generations,” Fayyaz Ghara, President of Social Welfare Society and CTC-Pakistan coalition partner from Talagang said.

According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco is the only product in the world which kills its own consumers, and its use is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In Pakistan, smoking among youth is on the rise as the tobacco industry is dedicatedly targeting youth to sell its poisonous products.

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