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Officials hope many lives will be saved

- Manish Gautam, KATHMANDU
Officials hope many lives will be saved

Jan 4, 2014-

The Supreme Court’s order to tobacco companies to put pictorial warnings covering 75 percent space on wrappers of all types of tobacco products has cheered health officials who think the graphic alarms on health will help decrease deaths caused by tobacco consumption.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population, over 40 Nepalis die of diseases related to the use of tobacco products every day. Every year, the government spends around Rs 30 million fighting such diseases.

On Sunday, the SC quashed a writ petition filed by tobacco companies against the government’s decision to make pictorial warnings mandatory on tobacco product covers.

Dr Praveen Mishra, secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population, says the verdict is an encouraging move to curb untimely deaths of thousands of people. “The move can also save millions of rupees that the government spends on preventive and curative measures against tobacco-related diseases,” said Mishra.

International researches show that people tend to quit consuming tobacco products after seeing graphic labels on their packets. Graphic warnings evoke emotional response, increase memory and awareness of health risks, and reinforce motivations to quit smoking to a greater extent than textual warnings.

A study published in 2007 in American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the British were less aware of harmful effects of tobacco than the Canadians simply because the pictorial warning covered a small portion of the tobacco packets in the UK. The British did notice and read the warnings, but the Canadians thought more about the health risks and about quitting cigarettes.

Another study conducted on medical college employees and students in 2012 had also revealed that graphic warnings were more effective than text-only labels in deterring people from using tobacco products.

Some doubts, however, remain on the effectiveness of the warnings on smokers in Nepal, a majority of who buy cigarettes by sticks. These buyers do not have to look at the graphics printed on the packet.

Dr Bhagwan Koirala, director of the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, says advertisements, especially on television, encouraged people to start smoking. “Just as those ads were visually appealing to take up smoking, graphics can be visually discouraging,” said Koirala, adding that the government now has to work in creating smoking zones in various areas with grim graphics pasted all over.

Badri Khadka, chief of the Tobacco Product Non-Communicable Disease Control Section at the National Health Education, Information and Communication Centre, said they were awaiting a formal letter from the court about the final verdict before implementing the decision through Industry Ministry.

Published: 04-01-2014 08:53

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