ISLAMABAD-Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has notified to increase the Pictorial Health Warning (PHW) up to 60 per cent on cigarette packs aimed to discourage tobacco use in the country, official said on Tuesday.

Official said that the PHW has been increased from 50 to 60per cent while the decision will be implemented in the month of June this year.

The notification issued said that “In exercise of the powers conferred by section 3 of the Cigarettes (Printing and Warning) Ordinance, 1979 (LXXIII of 1979), The federal government is pleased to direct that following further amendment shall be made in its notification No SRO 23 (KE)/2015, dated the 29th January, 2015.  In the aforesaid notification, for clause (2) the warning shall be printed from the June 1st 2019.

The ministry has also introduced new health warning images to be printed on packs official said.

He added that the new images have been introduced for the public awareness as tobacco consumption is also one of the major causes of cancer in the country.

The statement issued by NHS said that it has issued a notification to print new PHW on cigarette packs. The size of new warning has been increased from 50 to 60 per cent.

It said that the PHW will be printed on both sides of cigarette packs, manufactured in the country and imported to Pakistan.  The warning will be implemented from 1st June, 2019.  The new warning depicts the disease “Gangrene”, caused by smoking.

Federal Health Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani said that Ministry of NHSRC is committed to reduce prevalence of tobacco use in the country. As a signatory to Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Pakistan will fulfil its international commitments by taking demand and supply reduction measures.

The new warning will be effective at communicating risk and motivating behavioural changes, such as quitting or reducing cigarette consumption.

Statement said that tobacco use is a cause of death of around 160,100 Pakistanis every year. About 24 million adults currently use tobacco in any form in Pakistan. The youth of Pakistan are being targeted by the tobacco industry so that “replacement smokers” could be recruited.

Tobacco Control Cell of the Ministry is taking demand and supply reduction measures to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use in the country. In this regard, the Cell banned sale of loose cigarettes sticks, banned import of tobacco and non-tobacco sheesha and related substances, banned tobacco advertisement in print, electronic and outdoor media, banned cigarette packs having less than 20 cigarettes, illegalized designated smoking areas / smoking rooms, declared public places 100 percent smoke-free, raised awareness among masses, and built capacity of authorized persons to support enforcement.

Meanwhile, the rights group working for tobacco control in the country also urged government to increase the taxation of tobacco products to reduce its consumption in public.

Human Development Foundation (HDF), Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) in a statement issued debated the “low tobacco taxation, accessibility and advertisement of tobacco for minors; future tobacco consumers across the Pakistan.  SPARC Executive Director (ED) SPARC Sajjad Cheema said that considering the fact that increase in dollar price has had an effect of the increase in the price of basic goods for living. Whereas, the prices of tobacco products are still the same which makes it accessible to minors.

Heavy taxations on tobacco products will reduce the tobacco consumption and decrease the accessibility of minors to tobacco products. This will not only reduce the health bill of government of Pakistan and contribute to clean and healthy environment for future generations.

HDF’s CEO Major General (retd) Azhar Saleem said that usage of tobacco is among the five main leading causes for the outbreak and prevalence of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs). Pakistan yearly spends around Rs140 billions on the tobacco related diseases, which is a huge liability on the health sector of the country.  The preventive measures including the imposition of excise in the form of sin tax can help to eradicate the spread of tobacco epidemic in the country. 

According to the Health Minister the Sin Tax or Health Levy was planned to be imposed on the tobacco products but eventually, in this financial bill, we have seen the minor increased in tax on tobacco products.