Kathmandu, Nov 13: Nepal is the first nation to introduce laws that oblige tobacco companies to give 90 per cent space of their product packets with pictorial health warning message but the laws have remained far from implementation.
An international report ‘Pictorial Health Warning Massages in Tobacco Products,’ published by Canadian Cancer Society recently in India had announced that Nepal occupied the number one position in displaying the pictorial warning on the outer space of tobacco packets in terms of space coverage.
They depict the hard hitting pictures arising from the use of tobacco. The report was made public at the seventh conference of the signatory nations held in New Delhi organised by the World Health Organisation.
“However, if we strictly examine the tobacco products available in the Nepalese market, the provision of printing the pictorial massage on the 90 per cent space has not been implemented,” Shanta Lal Mulmi, executive director of the Resource Center for Primary Health Service (RESPHES), said.
In 2014, the government amended the ‘directives of printing and labeling of warning message and graphics in the boxes, packets, wrappers, cartons, parcels and packaging to tobacco products- 2011’ to increase the coverage of pictorial warning to 90 per cent from 75 per cent but the national and international tobacco industries failed to abide by it.
International tobacco products that enter the market legally have followed the legal provision as it is mandatory for them.
However, the products coming to market illegally from outside the countries and some domestic products have violated it, Mulmi said.
Nepal is one of the signatories among 181 countries that had already ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to decrease the use of tobacco produces.
The FCTC was developed with a belief that pictorial health hazards warning will effectively catch the attention of consumers and discourage them using it. A national study has showed that around 25,000 people die every year from tobacco related diseases. Similarly, around 51per cent of men and 17 per cent of women consume tobacco in Nepal.
Secretary at the Ministry of Health Dr. Senendra Raj Upreti said the Ministry would take necessary initiatives to implement the legal provision.
He said that the Ministry had repeatedly instructed District Administration Offices (DAO) to monitor the market. The DAOs have been assigned to carry out this work.
A study conducted by a national NGO on effectiveness of pictorial health warning showed that more than 50 per of cigarette consumers had stopped puffing cigarettes due to the pictorial warnings.