PESHAWAR: Even as questions surround the fate of an anti-tobacco bill which had cleared the provincial cabinet but never came up for voting in the last government, the provincial health department has urged the government to enact provisions on health warnings on cigarette packs listed in federal tobacco laws.
This was disclosed as the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) health department wrote to the chief secretary of the province, urging that provisions under the Cigarettes (Printing of Warning) Ordinance 1979, which requires that health warnings are printed on the packaging of tobacco products, are implemented.
The note, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, states that after the eighteenth amendment the provincial government had devised one draft law on tobacco and smoking, the K-P Prohibition of Tobacco and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Act 2016.
The bill, which had been vetted and approved by the cabinet and introduced in the provincial legislature, it was curiously never tabled in the K-P assembly for voting.
Regardless, K-P Health Secretary Abid Majeed noted in the proposal that federal laws, particularly the 1979 ordinance exists, which continue to remain applicable in the province. Hence, it should be implemented.
The note proposes that the Excise and Taxation Department secretary may be directed to issue instructions and detailed guidelines to their field staff, authorising officers from the director-general level all the way to the sub-inspector [or equivalent] level to implement provisions regarding health warning sizes on the packaging of tobacco products.
It further proposed that the excise secretary may direct its officials to conduct raids on the sale and manufacturing points for tobacco products as part of their routine, and ensure enforcement. The chief secretary was urged to issue similar instructions for the Home Department secretary for onward communication to the police department.
“Both above departments [excise and police] may share their monthly reports with, amongst others, the federal ministry director general and the tobacco control cell in the K-P Health director-general’s office on how many raids, offences noted, warnings issued, cases instituted in the relevant courts,” the proposal read.
“This agenda item may be moved for the provincial cabinet,” it further read.
“Meanwhile [until the provincial law is passed], the chief secretary may approve administrative arrangements wherein these officers [mentioned above] may initiate crackdown and wherever they note a transgression they can ask the police or excise officers to file complaints,” the proposal read. It noted that a qualified workforce for the purpose, including deputy commissioners, additional deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, additional assistant commissioners till Tehsildars are already present in the system and the task could be allotted as additional duties.
“Instructions may be issued [with health department’s support in drafting, coordination], cabinet agenda item and federal director general health may also be informed of the above actions taken,” the chief secretary was further requested in the proposal.
Late last year, the federal government had, through a supplementary regulatory order (SRO) had issued new guidelines for the health warnings to be printed on cigarette packs apart from enhancing their size.
The new warnings — with a warning in Urdu on the front and in English on the back — contain a gory picture of complications developing in the throat. The pictorial warnings, which will be run for a year from June 1, 2018, will cover 50 per cent of each side of the packet.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2018.