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Display of pictorial warning

Tobacco cos reluctant to implement it

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Ehsanul Haque Jasim :
The tobacco companies and a vested group are now active to hinder the implementing of the mandatory display of pictorial warning on the tobacco products as well as the tobacco packs, sources said.
According to the Tobacco Control Rules, the tobacco companies will have to insert pictorial warning signs on the tobacco products to make the people aware of adverse impacts of the tobacco consumption.  
The government has set March 19 as the deadline for starting the display. But some tobacco companies are lobbying strongly against the move. They are trying to convince the government in their favour. The tobacco companies in a letter requested the Health Ministry to make changes in the provision, said an official of the ministry.
The anti-tobacco activists said that such writing is violation of WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). They fear that there may be a delay in implementing the government's move due to the tobacco companies' lobbying. They urged the   
government not to be convinced by the tobacco companies in the greater interest of the people.   
ABM Zubair, Executive Director of 'Progga', an anti-tobacco organisation, said, the tobacco companies are lobbying hard to delay the implementation of the pictorial warning on tobacco packs.  
Sources said that the tobacco companies have already convinced some influential officials of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) as well as the Finance Ministry. The NBR now sees the government's move as loss of revenue income of the government.  An official of Health Ministry said that the tobacco companies are lobbying for not implementing the provision of mandatory display of pictorial warning on the tobacco products, fearing loss of income.
Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, a Joint Secretary of the Health Ministry and Coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Cell, said that the government is determined to implement the mandatory display of pictorial warning from March 19. "We have already selected the pictorial warnings that will be introduced on the cigarette packets," he said.
Currently, the multinational tobacco companies and local tobacco factories enjoy plain packaging of tobacco products in Bangladesh. According to the latest 'Smoking and Usage of Tobacco Products (Control) (Amendment) Act 2013', graphic pictorial warnings covering the upper half of each tobacco pack is mandatory so that the move discourages the smokers and non-smokers from tobacco consumption.
Instead of printing the images on the upper part of the pack as stipulated in the provision, tobacco companies want to print the warning pictures in the lower part of the pack, which will have less attention, said an official of the Health Ministry.
According to anti-tobacco activists, since there are a number of people who cannot read or understand the messages given by tobacco companies, the literal warning is not working effectively. So, the pictorial warning will help them to understand its adverse impacts on health.
Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, Director of Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, said that pictorial health warning is also an obligation for a country like Bangladesh that signed FCTC on tobacco control. Graphic pictures on tobacco packages are highly effective in discouraging smoking. For this, many countries have already introduced pictorial warnings, he added.
Tobacco use is a major cause of deaths in Bangladesh and other parts of the world. WHO estimates 57,000 people die of tobacco-related illnesses each year in Bangladesh, while more than 300,000 suffer disabilities every year.

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