Tobacco firms to display warnings on 90pc cover

- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu
Tobacco firms to display warnings on 90pc cover

Oct 30, 2014-

The government on Thursday made it mandatory for tobacco companies to devote at least 90 percent area on product covers to pictorial warnings depicting the hazards of tobacco consumption.

Presently, tobacco companies in the country are required to print health messages over 75 percent area on wrappers. With the new decision, Nepal tops many countries including Thailand and India that were deemed to have the biggest health warning, where such messages cover 85 percent area on packets.

Amending its tobacco control directives, the Ministry of Health and Population said, of the 90 percent space, 70 percent should include pictures depicting cancer in human organs. The rest shall contain statutory warnings in Nepali.

The amended directives also require other tobacco products—gutkha (a sweetened mixture of chewing tobacco, betel nut, and palm nut), khaini (chewing tobacco) and surti (tobacco leaves)—to bear warning messages on 90 percent surface of the wrappers.

All the companies should comply with the decision by May 15, 2015. Minister for Health and Population Khagaraj Adhikari said the move was aimed at discouraging new tobacco users while motivating present users to quit their consumption.

“Nepal has seen a sharp rise in non-communicable diseases and tobacco remains a major risk factor. We hope these pictures will help people refrain from taking any tobacco product,” said Minister Adhikari.

India in October made it mandatory for cigarette companies to devote at least 85 percent, up from 40 percent earlier, of the packet surface areas to hazard warnings.

The Health Ministry has increased the number of graphics to be used in tobacco products. In case of cigarettes, three more pictures showing brain haemorrhage, a baby dying due to passive smoking, throat and mouth cancer have been prescribed. Also, the picture of lung cancer will now be used in gutkha, khaini and surti along with cigarettes.

The government implemented its decision to make pictorial warnings mandatory in December last year. Although the ministry had planned to implement the decision from November 2011, tobacco companies moved the Supreme Court challenging the directive.

In its initial decision, the apex court on November 17, 2011 issued a stay order in response to a petition filed by Surya Nepal, saying that the Tobacco Product Control and Regulatory Act (2010) cannot be implemented immediately as it would cause a heavy loss on its already produced items. The final hearing, however, was in the government’s favour.

Tobacco remains a major killer in Nepal where, researchers say, two people die every hour due to ailments related to tobacco use. Around 23 percent deaths are blamed on tobacco use. This amounts to 15,000 deaths annually, 20 percent of the victims below 25 years of age.

Published: 31-10-2014 09:00

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