New cigarette packet warnings to deter ‘cool’ smokers in GCC

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Hanging out at cafes, wearing the best brands, cheerleader in football, join the college band and the smokers club are the new trends amongst youngsters. Smoking has become more of the coolest thing nowadays. The cool attitudes will come under renewed pressure after GCC approved a new law this week that will see grim images of smokers and health hazards on cigarette packets and tobacco products.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has enforced the law which shows unified graphic warnings that would be printed on the cigarette boxes, hookah and other smoking tools. The discouraging pictures like skeletons, black teeth along with warning messages will be published on cigarette boxes and other packed tobacco products.

Every country wants a ban on the tobacco products, then why dont they shun the manufacturing companies? The government revenue definitely will drop down,” asks a college student.

Printing warning pictures on all tobacco products will increase public awareness and smoking hazards and would be effective for illiterate smokers head of the anti-smoking unit at the Saudi health ministry insisted.

The new regulations will be enforced at the end of August 2012 and were approved after we noticed that the present warning labels are not enough, he told the Saudi Arabic language daily Sabq.

Government has taken efforts to curb smoking among 42 million people by raising the prices, enforcing custom duties on import of tobacco, and introduced laws that ban smoking in public places.

In 2010, GCC states made a decision to stop shops from selling tobacco to those under 20 years in a bid to cut tobacco sales by 12 per cent.

They expected the total sales across the region at about 60 billion cigarettes a year with Saudi Arabia as the largest market. The manufacturers and dealers now presume their business volume to go down further with the increased taxes.

According to official Saudi data, smoking deprives Saudi economy more than five billion riyals ($1.3 billion) annually which include medical treatment and fires associated with cigarettes.

The reports suggest there are around 6.2 million smokers in Saudi Arabia. The number accounts for approximately around 34 % of the Kingdom’s population which spends around SR12 billion on tobacco and cigarette every year.

The Saudi Heart Association expects the number of smokers to rise to more than 10 million in 2020.In UAE, adult smokers are approximately 18% of the population.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) says 6 million people die from smoking every year which also includes 600,000 deaths of passive smokers.

Tobacco critics say manufacturing companies come up with very shrewd tactics and use terms such as “light”, “mild” and “low” on packaging to fool smokers.

According to June 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, cigarette manufacturing firms have gone a step further and introduced terms such as “gold”, “silver” and “white” to entice smokers. Health analysts insist the images of injured lungs, teeth and various cancers are potent enough to keep the subconscious mind of smokers something to worry about and encourage them to quit this extremely injurious addiction.

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