Cigarettes at a grocery shop. Image Credit: Hadrian Hernandez/GN archive

Dubai: Government-level smoking cessation efforts, specifically new graphic photos as warning against smoking, will be a retail reality starting on Friday, Gulf News has learned.

Last October, the UAE Cabinet approved the anti-tobacco federal law stipulating the use of graphic warning images covering about half of the cigarette packet. The regulation to implement new standards for tobacco products is also enforced at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) level.

Five graphic images — three for cigarette and two for shisha products will be used.

The new tobacco retail products with the new graphic signs are mandatory August onwards, and according to the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (Esma), the sole standardisation body in the UAE, the new packaging will be on the market from August 10..

The lobbying for graphic warning images on tobacco products has been a challenging process, according to Dr Wedad Al Maidour, Head of National Tobacco Control Programme and director of Primary Healthcare Centres, Ministry of Health.

She told Gulf News that it is a great achievement at a government and GCC level. “As per the cabinet agreement, Esma will reinforce the law. Tobacco manufacturers have been informed of the new regulation and will have to abide.”

The UAE has been a participant of the WHO (World Health Organisation) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) since 2005, she explained.

“Through the new law and as a signatory of the FCTC, the UAE is proving its commitment, and adding value to our role,” she said.

On a health awareness level, the move also reflects the UAE concern about its people. Dr Wedad said, “We will no longer allow tobacco companies to fool residents with their attractive packaging and advertisements. The health awareness through graphic images will help the community stay health conscious. It will also help protect the young generation.”

To learn about the effectiveness of the new law, Gulf News spoke to Dr Nooshin Bazargani, cardiologist from Dubai Hospital and board member of the World Heart Federation (WHF), and Dr Azad Moopen, Chairman of DM Healthcare, UAE.

Dr Nooshin said, “The regulation is significant and is a positive initiation in the battle against tobacco. We hope that this will prevent many people from smoking, especially young generation.”

The timing is also opportune as the UAE will host the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) 2015, in Abu Dhabi, she added.

Dr Moopen said it is a positive step. “We hope it will act as a deterrent and stop people from picking up the habit altogether. The visual graphics on the packaging is expected to make the act less appealing to the smoker, acting as a constant warning against smoking or tobacco use. This is also expected to help in changing the image of smoking as ‘cool’, which is what, impacts youngsters to pick the habit.”