Cigarette companies object to pictorial warnings
The implementation of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs in the local market has reached a deadlock with manufacturers saying that rotational pictures would mean huge costs.
Manufacturers have said that they would have to incur extra printing costs to have five rotational pictures as warnings on the cigarette packets throughout the year and would force them to increase cigarette prices.
According to the Director-General of Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA), Mohammed Badri, several manufacturers have objected to the concept of having more than one picture warning. “They are not comfortable with the concept of rotating pictures because of the huge costs involved and have asked for changes in the design,” he said.
The recently passed federal No Tobacco Law stipulates that all tobacco products, including cigarette packets, should display pictorial warnings on 50 per cent of the product before being marketed.
Though the World Health Organisation requires that the warnings cover 30 per cent of the product, the GCC authority for specifications requires display on 50 per cent of the product.
“The manufacturers are also not agreeing to the 50 per cent display,” said Badri. He said another meeting scheduled for next month would decide what course of action would be taken on this protest. Commenting on the decision of the manufacturers/traders, Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, Head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the Ministry of Health, said, “This is not up to them to decide.
“The specifications are part of the law and all companies need to abide by the law eventually.”
She said several companies have objections to operating in the local market despite the fact that they have already been complying with such regulations in other parts of the world. “Australia demands that 75 per cent of the packs be covered, and companies do it,” she said. Many of the objections were just delaying tactics.
“The companies are just pressuring the authorities but it will not work,” she added.
A local manufacturer said that adding pictures would mean increasing costs by at least 20 per cent. “We need special colour printers and scanning facilities,” said a representative of a Fujairah-based company manufacturing a brand available locally and for export as well.
He, however, said more than the printing costs, the annually increasing price of tobacco is a source of concern. “Each year, tobacco prices go up by 30-35 per cent and if we are forced to increase even 25 fils per packet a year, the customers will feel the pinch,” said the representative who did not wish to be named.
He also said that if the law required the changes, they would implement them without delay. “All we want is that the law should be the same for all companies,” he added.
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