Picture this and Stop Smoking Filed on February 10, 2010

A smoking heart, burning fingers and a snake coiled around the shisha pipe are among the five graphics that will be used as warnings on tobacco products in the country soon.

People can expect to see these pictures, acquired exclusively by Khaleej Times, on cigarette packets and other tobacco products as soon as the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA) finalises the standardised packaging procedures being implemented GCC-wide.

The graphics that will replace the written word will be revised every one to two years. Nearly half of the cigarette pack will be covered by the pictures.

Though the pictures are intended to deliver a strong message and de-motivate smokers, the graphics approved for the region are less dramatic.

“We have selected these carefully so that we do not hurt the sensibilities of the people in this region,” said Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, head of the UAE National Committee for Tobacco Control in the ministry.

The UAE has taken permission to use pictures provided by Canada’s health authorities for two years since local pictures were not available.

“We were required to provide at least eight images as local examples but not enough are available in the UAE. Only a few pictures were collected from Al Tawam Hospital in Al Ain and Dubai’s Rashid Hospital,” she said.

“Once it’s packaged such, the consumers can either take the product or leave it,” she added.

Recently the World Health Organisation asked the GCC to speed up the process on pictorial warnings.

“Health warnings on packets of cigarettes are a powerful and inexpensive way to show the harmful effects of tobacco use,” said WHO regional director Dr Hussein Al Gezairy.

“Pictures convey a clear and instant message, even to those who cannot read. Although people agree that tobacco use is harmful, they are often unaware of how tobacco actually harms them,” he said.

“Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars to make products attractive to the public. They use packaging as an important tool to appeal to, and attract, new customers, while distracting consumers from the harsh reality of how tobacco destroys health.”

Local tobacco companies have already been informed that products that do not follow the new requirements will not be marketed in the country.

Other than packaging, levels of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide in each cigarette brand are being checked and cannot exceed the maximum set of international standards, said Engineer Mohamed Badri, Acting Director General of ESMA.

A total of 23 countries in the world now include pictorial health warnings, with messages reaching more than 700 million people.

In the eastern Mediterranean region, pictorial warnings are found in Egypt, Jordan, Iran and Djibouti.


Can anti-tobacco campaigns on product packets motivate people quit smoking? Tell us what you think.


Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.

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