Oman, which adopted pictorial warnings on all tobacco products from August 9 this year, has been ranked 19th along with other countries in GCC in the ‘Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report 2012’.
The report gives an international overview, ranking 198 countries, placing them on the basis of warning size, and lists those that have finalised requirements for picture warnings.
Till October 2012, 63 countries had finalised pictorial warnings, an increase of 29 from the 34 that had implemented by 2010. While 17 of them including Oman and other GCC countries joined the group in 2012, Canada was the first country to feature pictorial warnings in 2001.
Although immediately after August 9, the new packs with pictorial warnings were not visible in the market as vendors had old stock. Now, all brands of cigarette packs in the country come with the mandatory warning.
With the decision, all the packs, regardless of the kind of tobacco, have to display health warnings and images on not less than 50 per cent of the area at the bottom of both back and front sides of the packet.
Dr Jawad al Lawati, director of the Department of Non-Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Control, Ministry of Health, who has been a crusader for anti-tobacco regulations in the country, said that it’s a good start for the country as well as GCC.
“Adopting the rule of mandatory pictorial warning this year is a breakthrough for the sultanate as it was overdue. We should now try to move pictorial warnings to the top of the package as against the current placement at the bottom.”
He explained that to ensure better visibility and impact, picture warnings should be placed on both sides of the packet and at the top half, as provided in Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) guidelines.
“There was heavy lobbying by some GCC member states against the use of warnings on top half of the package, which led to the adoption of warnings on the lower half,” Dr Lawati said.
The FCTC guidelines recognise that the effectiveness of health warnings increases with size, and that ‘parties should consider more than 50 per cent’ and ‘aim to cover as much of the principal display areas as possible’.
As the ranking is based on size of the warning, Oman is ranked 19th along with 25 other countries including those in GCC.
Australia now has the largest warnings in the world at 82.5 per cent of the packet area and back (75 per cent front, 90 per cent back), surpassing Uruguay with 80 per cent. Australia has also implemented plain packaging to prohibit tobacco company colours, logos, and design elements on the brand part of the package.
With 63 countries that have finalised pictorial warning requirements, more than 40 per cent of the world’s population is covered. ‘If these countries can do it, then all countries can,’ said the report.