Look before you light up
Pictorial warning on cigarette packs from tomorrow.
Come August 9 and all tobacco products in the UAE will start carrying strong pictorial and written warnings in English and Arabic that will cover half of the packet.
In a circular issued recently to all tobacco manufacturers, traders and retailers in the UAE, the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (Esma) has asked the companies to dispose off their existing stock by the end of 2012. Any breach of the National Anti-Tobacco Law, under which the warnings are being made compulsory, will incur fines that will be announced soon.
The warnings about the health hazards associated with tobacco use will be mandatory on all cigarette packs and tobacco products across the GCC as per a unified approach adopted by the states in regulating tobacco use.
Officials from the UAE Ministry of Health said that years of hard work had gone into the implementation of these warnings and that they hoped these warnings would have the same effect here as they had in countries where they were implemented.
“Any cigarette or tobacco consignment entering the UAE from August 9 will require mandatory warnings,” said Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the ministry.
Dr Wedad, known for heading the anti-smoking campaign in the UAE, said pictorial warnings were the best way for people, especially youngsters, to learn the reality about the product. “We are trying to tell everyone residing here and even those visiting, that the UAE is serious about this issue and their health,” she added.
According to the World Health Organisation, pictures convey a clear and instant message even to those who cannot read. Although people agree that tobacco use is harmful, they are often unaware of how tobacco actually affects them. Pictorial warnings on tobacco products are also helpful in reducing the attractiveness of tobacco packs.
Currently a total of 23 countries include pictorial health warnings with messages reaching more than 700 million people. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Egypt, Jordan, Islamic Republic of Iran and Djibouti issue pictorial health warnings on the packs of tobacco products.
“Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars to make tobacco products attractive. They use packaging as an important tool to attract new customers, while distracting them from the harsh reality of how tobacco destroys health,” said Dr Wedad.
A manufacturer said that adding pictures would mean increasing costs by at least 20 per cent. “We need special colour printers and scanning facilities,” said a representative of a Fujairah-based company manufacturing a brand available locally as well as for export.
As per the specifications, the warnings and pictures will be printed on a white background and will cover 50 per cent of the pack. The warnings will also be mandatory for a variety of tobacco products such as shisha, snuffing and chewing tobacco, cigars and cigarillos.
Meanwhile, a survey done by the Abu Dhabi Health Authority and Johns Hopkins University in 2009 found that there is a very high consumption of tobacco products in the UAE. The survey was done to assess the impact of pictorial warnings on the public. All interviewees thought that people smoke because of one or more of the following reasons: Socialising, entertainment with friends, relief from stress, provoking thoughts, improving mood, usual habit after eating, before sleep and use “Madawakh” small pipe to relax.