The printing of graphic health warning images on all cigarette packets made by Lao companies will be postponed until May 1 next year, a delay of seven months from the original agreement to start printing the new packs this month.
The Ministry of Health had previously stipulated that all cigarette packets should carry graphic health warning images starting in October but manufacturers requested a postponement.
They said they had a large stockpile of printed packets and also requested a reduction in the size of the graphic image from 75 percent to 50 percent of the total packet. The Ministry of Health and the National Committee for Tobacco Control only acceded to the first request and would not agree to a smaller image being printed.
Director General of the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department of the Ministry of Health, Dr Phath Keungsaneth, said that all 10 ASEAN countries had passed legislation on graphic health warnings. Laos is one of 77 countries and jurisdictions that now require such warnings to be printed on cigarette packets.
The Ministry of Health’s Tobacco Control Unit adviser Dr Bounlonh Ketsouvannasane said the request for the postponement of the printing date had been submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office. To prevent the manufacturers requesting a further postponement, the document submitted also stated that tobacco companies would be fined if all cigarette packets did not carry the new health warnings starting on May 1, 2017.
Some companies that import cigarettes from neighbouring countries have agreed to abide by the regulation to start selling packs of cigarettes carrying graphic health warnings this month.
The graphic images are one step towards fulfilling Laos’ obligations under Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
According to the World Health Organisation in Laos, the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced and kills around six million people each year. In the Western Pacific Region, two people die every minute while 13 people die every day in Laos from tobacco-related illnesses.
It is believed that graphic health warnings will raise awareness of the harmful effects of smoking and reduce the disparities in health knowledge by providing low-income smokers with regular access to health information.
Warnings are a key, low-cost channel for informing people about the dangers of smoking. They get smokers to think about the risks of smoking and to think about quitting, and these effects, in turn, are associated with attempts to quit.
Pictorial warnings are more effective than text-only warnings, probably because they are more emotionally arousing and present the damage caused by smoking in vivid and memorable ways.
Source: Vientiane Times