ISLAMABAD: Medical practitioners have said that every year over 80,000 Pakistanis get different heart diseases and after every two minutes a countryman suffers from heart attack.
They were addressing the participants of a workshop ‘enhanced pictorial health warning in Pakistan’ on Sunday jointly organised by the Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR) and Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan (CTC).
While quoting a survey research, they said that almost two in five smokers in Pakistan initiate cigarette smoking before the age of 10 years while every day 274 people die in the country due to tobacco related diseases.
Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Tobacco Control Cell Project Manager Muhammad Javed said that studies show a large proportion of smokers have an inadequate knowledge of the health effects associated with smoking
and underestimate the severity and magnitude of those risks.
He said that picture health warnings deter youth from starting to smoke while graphic depictions of disease were perceived by youth and adults as the most effective warning theme.
International union against the tuberculosis and Lung Disease Technical Advisor Fouad Aslam said that under article 11 of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), each country should adopt and implement effective packaging and labeling measures within a period of three years after entry into force of the convention.
He said that currently graphic warnings have been adopted by one third of countries while many countries have increased warning size, besides mandated picture warnings.
He added the worldwide trend for larger and picture health warnings were growing and unstoppable.
Similarly, graphic warnings detract from the pack image inform smokers, motivate quitting and reduce number of times people smoke while it costs little to governments and minimal costs to the industry.
He said under plain packaging, health warnings would continue to appear. The brand portion of the package would have the same colour on all packs while text would have the same location, font, style and size.
Fouad said that the plain packaging would curb the tobacco industry’s use of the package as a promotional vehicle, increase the effectiveness of package warnings, curb package deception and would decrease the tobacco use.
He said that both the articles 1142 and 1343 guidelines under the FCTC recommend that countries consider implementing plain packaging.
Pakistan National Heart Association (PNHA) General Secretary Sanaullah Ghumman said that high smoking rates contribute to a significant number of early deaths, high healthcare costs and productivity loss.
The secretary said that the major cause of increasing heart disease is unhealthy life style mainly due to use of tobacco. He added that comprehensive warning labels are effective among youth and there is evidence that they prevent smoking initiation.
Ghumman said that research shows that large graphic warning labels cause smokers to smoke fewer cigarettes, avoid smoking in front of children and pregnant women, and smoke less at home.
Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR) Executive Director Mazhar Arif said that the organisation is working for implementation of FCTC provisions translated in tobacco control laws and their enforcement.
Mazhar said that the organisation is providing technical support to authorities for legislative measures and their effective enforcement to reduce tobacco consumption in the country.
Coalition for Tobacco Control-Pakistan (CTC) National Coordinator Khurram Hashmi urged media persons and representatives of civil society organisations to play their effective role to create awareness in public about health hazard effects of tobacco use.
He said that Pakistan has introduced 40 percent pictorial health warning in 2010 and now new pictorial health warning covering 85 percent of the cigarette packs would be implemented from May 30.