UAE | Health

Residents unconvinced about efficacy of graphic warnings

Cigarette packs have had to display graphic health warnings

  • By Samihah Zaman, Staff ReporterWith pictures by Ahmed Kutty
  • Published: 21:52 January 5, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News
  • Three types of graphic warnings are currently being printed. One shows a burning and blackened hand holding a cigarette, while another depicts a lit cigarette with a skull emanating from it. The third depicts a pregnant woman and how her unborn child is being harmed by the cigarette.

Abu Dhabi: Cigarette packs across the country have displayed graphic health warnings since the beginning of the year (2013), but few residents are convinced of their efficacy in dissuading smokers.

Authorities, however told Gulf News that even as packs without the mandatory warning are removed from retail shelves, further measures are already being considered to reduce the attractiveness of cigarettes.

“At present, the graphic health warnings cover about 50 per cent of each cigarette pack. At this size, they catch the human eye and are likely to be noticed. We are also studying the feasibility of plain packaging without apparent brand names, and working with other health entities to reduce the allowable amount of tar and nicotine per cigarette,” said Mohammad Saleh Badri, acting director general of the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA).

Three types of graphic warnings are currently being printed. One shows a burning and blackened hand holding a cigarette, while another depicts a lit cigarette with a skull emanating from it. The third depicts a pregnant woman, and how her unborn child is being harmed by the cigarette.

The ESMA not only ensures that cigarette packs contain the health warnings, but also tests cigarettes before sale to ensure that they contain only the allowable limit for each component.

“Since Wednesday (January 2), we have been coordinating with other government entities to ensure that all packs without the warnings are removed off shelves, especially as retailers and tobacco providers have been given a long period to comply with the decision,” Badri said.

“We are checking on the hypermarkets first, since nearly 80 per cent of all residents make most of their purchases there. Within the next two months, we expect that all packs without the warnings will have been phased out,” he added.

Residents, however, had mixed reactions about the effectiveness of the graphic warnings.

Nadine Berjawi, 31, a businesswoman and mother-of-two, said the graphic warnings were “better than nothing”.

“I feel that they are better than packs without warnings,” Berjawi said.

But another South Asian engineer in the capital, Mohamed M, said he was not convinced.

“I had imagined that the graphics would be bigger, and use more shocking pictures of unhealthy organs. I do not smoke myself, but I doubt the pictures currently being used will really discourage smoking,” he added.

Osama N., a 37-year-old banker from Jordan, had a similar opinion.

“I smoke when I feel the urge for a cigarette, and the presence of a graphic warning does not have any impact on this urge,” he said.

“The only way a smoker would really reduce or quit smoking is if he were fully committed,” Osama added.

Another smoker from Egypt said he had seen scarier graphic warnings on cigarette packs in Egypt, but that they too had had no real effect on when and how much he smoked.

When questioned, Dr Rasha Abbas, a consultant psychiatrist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology, said there is still not a lot of evidence to show the usefulness of graphic health warnings in reducing the number of smokers or frequency of smoking.

“However, a US-based study recently indicated that people are more able to recall graphic warnings than text warnings, and this can lend to their efficacy. In addition, they could also make smoking less attractive,” she explained.

The psychiatrist furthermore recommended more studies into the effect of these health warnings.

Comments (7)

  1. Added 15:50 January 6, 2013

    I do not understand why people are fixated on smokers. Majority of the deaths here, as reported on one website, were due to heart disease and diabetes caused by bad eating habits, lack of exercice and a general careless attitute to ones health. If everyone is so concerned about wellbeing, the first things to ban are the fast food joints. To all you non-smokers calling for a ban on selling cigarettes in UAE, think how many times you feed your kids filth like KFC and MCD's and then imagine the kind of damage you are doing to them! More people die of diabetes and heart diseases than lung cancer (which I know several cases has equal chances of effecting non-smokers as well). Do us all a favor and leave us smokers alone!!

    Jamal, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 14:42 January 6, 2013

    why don you just ban cigarettes in UAE or sell it for expensive prices like other countries.

    naseem, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 14:00 January 6, 2013

    I am a non-smoker and have seen the simple graphic images and this does not create any impact on smokers. In Malaysia cigarette packs contains graphic image of the organs which are affected by smoking, but it seems all these do not have any impact on smokers as the ciarette companies still are running profitably.

    Ajoy, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 13:27 January 6, 2013

    Warning signs or no warning signs, I would not quit smoking with any graphic images on the pack. This is mere mentality of the smoker. If he or she wants to quit or not. Let's be frank, most of the smokers know about the harmful effects of smoking, being said that it depends on the person's will power to quit smoking and nothing to do with warning signs logo's or pictures.

    Saqr, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 13:25 January 6, 2013

    I see the graphics on the packs, but people who didnt smoke earliar are smoking these days. I have two friends who started smoking, (one male and one female), so the question is, does this help? taking care of your health is up to you, smoke or dont smoke you still die. But why die early when you have days to live a happy life with your family, relatives and friends.

    Nizam, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 12:58 January 6, 2013

    These images look more 'kewl and hip' to be on a pack than discouraging and imposing fear. I know a few people who actually said they felt more manly holding these packets...imagine that

    Naz, AUH, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 12:16 January 6, 2013

    My friend said a very good thing. This image does not have an impact on a chain or a continuous smoker, as he is a smoker and he does not get any kind of feeling when taking a pack of cigarette. What really affects is if a new user is coming he or she will be cautioned!

    Faizan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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