PHW effective tool for educating smokers: Study

Kathmandu, October 16

Pictorial health warning on packets of tobacco products have proven to be an effective tool for educating smokers and non-smokers alike about the health risks of tobacco use, shows a study.

According to the findings of the study ‘Monitoring Effectiveness of PHW in Nepal: What We Have Found and What We Have Learnt’ recently conducted by Action Nepal, as many as 55 per cent of current smokers reduced the amount of cigarettes smoked due to the pictorial warnings on the wrappers and packets of tobacco products. The respondents said they reduced the number of cigarettes smoked from 11 to five sticks per day after tobacco products started carrying health warning on packets.

Asked about the effectiveness of pictorial health warning, 90 per cent of respondents said it was effective in preventing smoking initiation. Similarly, 95 per cent of ex-smokers included in the study said the pictorial warning has proven to be effective in re-convincing ex-smokers not to start smoking again. “Ninety per cent of the respondents said pictorial health warning is effective in educating people about the health risks of tobacco consumption,” read the findings of the study.

Action Nepal Chairperson Ananda Bahadur Chand, who led the study, said both the public and retailers strongly supported pictorial warning, which according to him justifies to make effective implementation of a 90 per cent coverage area of pictorial health warning on packets of tobacco products The study was based on 75 per cent coverage area of pictorial warnings in wrappers, packets and other packaging of tobacco products.

Though the government amended the ‘Directives for Printing and Labelling of Warning Message and Graphics in the Boxes, Packets, Wrappers, Carton, Parcels and packaging of Tobacco Products-2011’ to increase coverage area of pictorial warning to 90 per cent from the existing 75 per cent, it has not been fully implemented. Chand called on the government to enforce the new rule to reduce tobacco consumption.

According to a government report, current smoking prevalence among male and female is 51.9 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. More than 25,000 people die of tobacco related diseases every year.

Shanta Bahadur Shrestha, secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population, described the tobacco control strategy as a life-saving approach. “What we can do is launch a massive public awareness through scary pictorial warnings on packets of tobacco products. We are now in the phase of implementing 90 per cent graphic health warning on packets of tobacco products,” he said.