GCC to go ahead with cigarette warnings

August 31, 2012

A Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) official has denied claims that the plan to put graphics on tobacco products warning of the perils of smoking had been postponed under pressure from tobacco companies.

“We are committed to implementing the decision to put the graphics as per the plan endorsed by the expert GCC committees,” Tawfiq Bin Ahmad Khoja, the head of the executive bureau of the GCC health ministers, said.

The governments in the member countries should go ahead with the implementation despite pressure by lobbies representing tobacco companies to delay or cancel the GCC decision, Khoja said, Saudi Arabic daily Al Yaumreported on Monday.

The GCC countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — agreed to make graphic warning labels on cigarette packets mandatory in 2012.

Under GCC standards, manufacturers are required to add graphic images, such as damaged lungs or infected jaws, on cigarette packets to warn consumers about the hazards of smoking.

Images should be used along with written warnings and should be big enough to cover at least 30 per cent of the space on the packet.

GCC officials reported that the decision was resisted by manufacturers who requested to reduce the size of the graphic images to five per cent.

However, GCC officials said that their states were moving ahead with the implementation of the new specifications for tobacco products despite stiff resistance from cigarette manufacturers.

According to estimates, four million smokers in the GCC consume 50 billion cigarettes a year.

Several countries, including Brazil, Britain, Canada, India, Iran, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand, have imposed the pictorial warnings.

However, a plan by the US to require images on cigarette packs starting September 22 was defeated after a court on Friday ruled that the planned images went beyond “pure attempts to convey information to consumers.”


“They are unabashed attempts to evoke emotion [and perhaps embarrassment] and browbeat consumers into quitting,” the US Court of Appeals in Washington said.

Tobacco companies took the US Food and Drug Administration to court on the grounds that the cigarette labels violated the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

US officials said that around 450,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related causes, costing the US economy $200 billion (Dh734 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.

In Australia, however, the Australian High Court has rejected a challenge by multinational tobacco companies against the government’s tobacco plain packaging legislation.

Under the new law, “cigarettes and other tobacco products sold in Australia after December 1 must be in drab olive/brown packaging with no brand logos or colourful designs. Brand names will be restricted to small, generic type. The packaging will also include large health warnings and may include disturbing graphics depicting the ill-health effects of smoking,” local media reported.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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