Bahrain steps up anti-smoking drive
Manama, August 31, 2012
New cigarette packets with graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking will hit stores across Bahrain soon, according to senior health officials.
The first shipment of the packets has arrived in the country as part of GCC-wide efforts to combat the use of tobacco.
Retailers have been given six months to get rid of their existing stock and no imports without the image will be allowed into the country.
They have also been warned there would be repercussions if they violate the new guidelines.
The visual health warnings include horrific images of smoking hazards, such as the deterioration of organs and harmful effects on pregnant women, which will also be placed on sheesha tobacco packets.
They were approved by the six Gulf states and aim to encourage consumers to kick the habit.
'The first shipment of cigarette packets of a brand with the mandatory graphic images has arrived in Bahrain,' said GCC Anti-Smoking Committee member Dr Maha Al Muqla, who is also Bahrain's Public Health consultant.
Under the GCC standards, which have been effective from August 9, manufacturers are required to use the packets with the images that should not be less than 50 per cent of the basic display area, said Dr Al Muqla.
Some of the images displayed include a flaming skull at the end of a cigarette symbolising early death and burning fingers with a message, which highlights smoking increases risk of more than 25 diseases.
'We have given all retailers six months starting from August 9 to get rid of all their existing stocks,' added Dr Al Muqla.
'After this period, our inspectors will be out in full force and seize the old stocks, which will be destroyed.'
Dr Al Muqla said similar pictorial warnings were imposed in Canada, the UK and Singapore, among other countries, which have been successful in kicking the habit.
'According to experts in these countries, the visual warnings have resulted in a drop in smoking rates and we intend to do the same here in Bahrain and GCC countries,' she stressed.
She revealed awareness campaigns would be conducted each month until February targeting supermarkets and stores to highlight the new tobacco regulations.
'Our inspectors will visit markets and if anyone is found selling old stocks after the six-month period is over, they will be referred to the Public Prosecution and have to pay fines.'
The Gulf Standardisation Organisation took five years to reach a consensus on implementing the unified regulation for the import of tobacco products into the region related to labelling of tobacco product packages.
In 2009, an anti-smoking law was ratified by His Majesty King Hamad which banned smoking in indoor public places, including restaurants, cafes, hotels and hair salons, and on public transport and in private cars - where there are children.
It further forbids planting, manufacturing or reprocessing of tobacco in Bahrain as well as importing chewable tobacco-based products and other tobacco-based substances not licensed by the Health Ministry.-TradeArabia News Service