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No Tobacco Day 2016: WHO appeals for plain packaging of tobacco products

No Tobacco Day 2016: WHO appeals for plain packaging of tobacco products

Around 100,000 Pakistanis die annually from tobacco. Data shows 36% adult males, 9% adult females among 25 million smokers in the country

The World Health Organisation (WHO), on this World No Tobacco Day, is calling all govenrments to be ready for plain packaging of tobacco products.

Plain packaging means branding and promotional information is removed from tobacco packaging and replaced by graphic health warnings, dull color combinations, a brand name and a product and/or manufacturer’s name in standardized font.

“Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products. It kills the glamour, which is appropriate for a product that kills people,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.

“It restricts tobacco advertising and promotion. It limits misleading packaging and labeling. And it increases the effectiveness of health warnings,” she added.

WHO is recommending plain packaging to the world because it reduces the glamour of tobacco products and that is totally appropriate for a product that kills needlessly up to 6 million people per year,” said Douglas Bettcher, Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs).

According to WHO, every six seconds, one person dies from a tobacco-caused disease totaling nearly six million people each year – a figure which is expected to rise to more than eight million by 2030.

Pakistan, sadly, is far away from enforcing any such measures. “The country’s Ministry of Health has not only surrendered from its global commitment to increase the size of the pictorial health warning on cigarette packs from the existing 40% to 85%, but has also failed to enforce rotation of the graphic warning every six months” points out this report.

Tobacco kills 100,000 Pakistanis every year

As many as five million people die in the world as a direct result of tobacco while about 100,000 people lost their lives annually in Pakistan, according to data given by the Tobacco Control Cell of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination.

The data showed that about 22 to 25 million population was smoker out of which around 36 percent of adult males and nine percent of adult females were tobacco users in the country while use of ‘Shisha’ amongst the youth is an emerging health risk.

Tobacco kills 150 persons every hour in South East Asia

Tobacco use continues to be a major public health issue across the WHO South-East Asia Region (which includes India) with nearly 246 million people in the region’s 11 countries continuing to smoke tobacco and just below 290 million using it in smokeless forms.

“Tobacco is leading to death of 1.3 million people across the region every year the equivalent of 150 fatalities per hour,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia said on World No Tobacco Day.

What’s with Plain Packaging?

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest report found that “plain packaging” can help save lives and curb smoking when combined with health warnings and advertising restrictions, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The 86-page report calls for the world to “Get ready for plain packaging” and was released to coincide with World No Tobacco Day 2016 on Tuesday.

WHO appeals for plain packaging of tobacco products on World No Tobacco Day 2016

WHO wants to restrict logos, branding, colors and promotional snippets on the packaging. The information on the label should be limited to just brand and product names printed with a standard color and font style.

Plain packaging is said to reduce the appeal of tobacco products among consumers and limit chances for advertising and promotion. Such measure also decreases misleading information and boosts the effectiveness of health warnings.

“Plain packaging builds upon other measures as part of a comprehensive multisectoral approach to tobacco control,” WHO writes.

Legislators, civic groups and members of the public may take action to push governments to implement the plain packaging recommendation.

Countries already practicing Plain Cigarette Packaging

Plain cigarette packaging has already been followed by several countries.

In 2012, Australia became the first country to force manufacturers to strip all branding from cigarette packets, most now sold over the counter from blank fronted cabinets. Other countries have followed its lead.

China – the world’s largest producer and consumer of cigarettes – has stepped up its battle on tobacco. Beijing is celebrating a year since its public smoking ban.

In 2015, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Ireland and France all submitted a law to have the plain packaging bill take effect on May 2016.

In the UK, this law was officially implemented on May 20, so all tobacco products manufactured after this date must comply with the standardized plain packaging. Tobacco companies, however, are given time to sell their old batches of products, but in a few months’ time, cigarette stalls are expected to literally be all too plain.

Other countries are also said to be in the final phase of considering the said law.

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