| Azlan Othman |
BRUNEI Darussalam is ranked fourth in the world in terms of the size of health warnings on cigarette packets which covers 75 per cent of the package – front and back – a study by Canadian Cancer Society which was released this week showed.
The Sultanate maintained the fourth spot it attained two years ago. This time, it shares the same place with Canada and Nepal. Thailand has the largest warnings in the world covering 85 per cent of the packet front and back, surpassing Australia at 82.5 per cent (75 per cent front, 90 per cent back).
The report shows that 77 countries and territories have pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets – up significantly from 55 in 2012.
The report, ‘Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report’, ranks 198 countries/territories on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages, lists countries and territories that require pictorial warnings, and documents the global momentum towards implementation of plain packaging.
Examples of graphic picture warnings include a diseased lung or mouth, a patient with lung cancer in a hospital bed and a child exposed to secondhand smoke. The report also shows that many countries have increased the size of picture warnings on cigarette packets and these larger pictures are known to be more effective.
Cigarette package warnings are a highly cost-effective way to increase awareness of the negative health effects of smoking and to reduce tobacco use. Picture-based warnings convey a more powerful message than a text-only warning.
Guidelines under the international tobacco treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), recommend that warnings should be as large as is achievable, include a rotated series of graphic pictures, and placed at the top of both the front and back of packages. Picture warnings are especially valuable for low and middle income countries where there are higher rates of illiteracy and where governments may have few resources. Health departments will determine the content of warnings while the tobacco industry is responsible for printing the warnings on packages.
Sixty countries/jurisdictions have required warnings to cover at least 50 per cent of the package front and back (on average), up from 47 countries in 2012, 32 in 2010 and 24 in 2008.
The Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report was released to support the implementation of the FCTC. The FCTC has an obligation for parties to require health warnings that “should be 50 per cent or more of the principal display areas but shall be no less than 30 per cent of the display areas” and may be in the form of, or include, picture warnings. There are now 179 countries that are parties to the FCTC.
Brunei’s Amendments to tobacco regulations regarding the labelling of products was enforced in September 2012. The amendments include increasing the surface coverage of health warning on cigarette packs from 50 to 75 per cent and placing new pictorial warnings on cigarette packs.
These positive changes and messages on the dangers and effects of cigarette smoking have become more obvious and enhanced awareness among smokers regarding the adverse effects of smoking.
Brunei Darussalam is among the first of a group of countries that fully supports the ‘Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’ which the Sultanate ratified in 2004.
Such a commitment has strengthened the implementation of tobacco control strategy practiced in the country, which includes establishing a review and enforcement of the 2005 Tobacco Order and its regulations.
The comprehensive legislation has enabled Brunei to implement strong methods of control over tobacco products covering aspects such as advertisement prohibition, controlling the use, sale and promotion of tobacco products.
A Senior Policy Advisor of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), Dr Mary Assunta Kolandai, two years ago congratulated Brunei for enacting the largest graphic health warning on cigarette packs in Asia.
There was international interest in Brunei’s advancement in tobacco control and the 75 per cent pictorial warnings are now among the largest in the world, she said. Brunei stands as a shining jewel among Asean countries in illustrating what could be achieved for tobacco control in a relatively short period of time.