From tomorrow all tobacco products, including cigarettes packages, entering Oman and other GCC borders, will bear mandatory pictorial warnings about the harmful impact of tobacco on human health.
The decision, issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on March 18, 2012, comes into effect from August 9 and will be simultaneously applied by other GCC members states.
With the decision, all tobacco packs, regardless of the kind of tobacco, have to display health warnings and images on both front and back side of the packet, covering not less than 50 per cent of the bottom area.
While the front side will display instructions in Arabic, the other side will display in English. As of February 2012, over 45 countries have passed legislation requiring pictorial health warnings.
Several shops visited by Muscat Daily showed that vendors are yet to display the products with new packaging.
According to Saleh al Zadjali, director of specification, MoCI, this is because the vendors have been given a grace period to sell off their old stock.
“But all imports will have to follow the changed rules from August 9, for which
all the dealers have been informed well in advance.”
Speaking about the impact of the new rules Dr Zahir al Anqoudi, head of non communicable disease control at the Directorate General of Health Services in Dakhliyah and the senior superintendent at Tobacco Cessation Clinic, Nizwa, said it will help tremendously in discouraging beginners.
Research by International Tobacco Control has shown that health warnings are an effective tool for:
- Educating smokers and non-smokers about the harms of smoking
- Motivating smokers to quit and providing help, information to enhance efficacy of quitting
- Encouraging non-smokers, including youth, to not take up smoking
- Counteracting misleading messages and brand imagery on tobacco packages
“They will get a realistic message about the ill effects of tobacco through pictorial warnings, which are currently non-existent. Many studies have proved that graphic warnings alarm many and effectively discourage them from using tobacco.”
He said it will also help chain smokers lower the number of cigarettes they smoke and put many on the path to quit completely.
Dr Anqoudi also highlighted a Canadian study on the effects of pictorial warnings. The study found that approximately one fifth of participants reported smoking less as a result of the labels.
Further, participants reported negative emotional responses to the warnings, including fear (44 per cent) and disgust (58 per cent).
Also, smokers who reported greater negative emotion were more likely to quit.
He added that another measure to discourage smoking is by increasing taxes, on which a GCC wide discussion has been in progress.