Aug 03, 2009 News
– New Standard for Tobacco approved
After months of consultations and intense campaigning strategies, the Ministry of Health could gear for a small but satisfying victory as it relates to the consumption of tobacco locally.
This newspaper understands that the Guyana Bureau of Standards has approved the notion for a packaging and label regulation whereby a minimum of 50 percent of the surface must have pictorial and health messages.
The move, was described by Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy as “a wonderful achievement,”
He stressed the need to continue the onslaught against tobacco.
A warning that tells the truth is the minimum step that should be taken to highlight the deadly impact of tobacco.
This was repeatedly emphasised by Tobacco Control Project Officer, Eshwar Ragunath.
Ragunath, had for months been upping the ante against tobacco consumption as part of the efforts to raise awareness about the drug which is abused and which also contributes to many deaths around the globe.
According to the Project Officer, although tobacco deaths rarely make headlines, it kills one person every six seconds.
“Tobacco kills a third to half of all people who use it. Today, tobacco use causes one in 10 deaths among adults worldwide (which represents) more than five million people a year.”
He speculated that by 2030, 70 per cent of all deaths from tobacco will occur in developing countries, up from around 50 per cent today.
He revealed though that recent research shows smokers want large, no-nonsense tobacco package warnings, in colour, with pictures and graphics in order to help motivate them to quit smoking and help persuade kids not to smoke.
As such, Ragunath said that effective health warnings, especially those that include pictures depicting the associated health effects of smoking have been proven to motivate users to quit and to reduce the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted.
“Our present warning system which simply states “The Minister of Health advises that smoking is dangerous to health” merely gives our children a generalised knowledge that cigarettes are bad for you. The nature and the magnitude of the health effects of tobacco use are not there,” Ragunath insisted.
Health warnings on cigarette packages were introduced in the 1960s and according to Ragunath, it is now found in many countries worldwide. He however noted that the warnings are outdated and most only offer general information, adding that the lack of information on tobacco and health is a particular problem in developing countries.
He pointed out that often is the case too that smokers have been fooled into believing that so-called ‘Low tar’ or ‘Light’ cigarettes are somewhat less harmful than regular cigarettes. Thus, instead of quitting, smokers prefer to simply switch brand.
However, he noted that with picture warnings, packages are better able to convey clearly an immediate message, even to people who cannot read. They reduce the overall attractiveness of tobacco packages.
According to Ragunath, more countries, including Guyana are fighting back by requiring that tobacco packages graphically show the dangers of tobacco as called for in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In response to this threat and the demand from countries for action, the World No Tobacco Day campaign will focus on health warnings that combine text and pictures as one of the most cost-effective ways to increase public awareness of the serious health risks of tobacco use and to reduce its consumption.
And even as efforts are made to ensure that the use of tobacco is addressed in the Health Ministry’s Substance Abuse, Prevention and Rehabilitation Programme, Minister Ramsammy has urged that the fight against alcohol consumption be targeted in like manner.
“Alcohol abuse is rampant in our country. We have so far paid lip service to this fact and therefore we must lift our focus on alcohol to a higher level,” said the Minister.
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