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A major victory for tobacco control was won in Nepal after an appeal by the tobacco industry against mandatory graphic warnings on packaging was quashed by the Supreme Court. The new law means all tobacco product packaging must have 75% of its surface covered by pictorial health warnings, with immediate effect.


A group of tobacco companies had petitioned against this law, arguing it was far more stringent than rules in neighbouring countries such as India and China, where less than half the packet area must display warnings. Specifically they said it contravened the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which mandates 30% coverage of packaging. Further objections were that bidi factories could not afford the expensive machines needed to print the warnings, that the proposed pictures were a form of personal terrorism rather than public awareness, and that it could lead to huge jobs losses within Nepal, as the tobacco industry employs thousands.


This legislation, upheld by the Supreme Court on 29 December, is part of a raft of strong measures included in the Tobacco Control and Regulatory Act 2011, which aims to curb the poverty, disease and untimely death caused by tobacco use. The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) currently estimates that more than 25,000 deaths each year are tobacco-related, and of the 14 million who smoke, those living in poverty spend up to 10% of their income on the habit.


The Act bans tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, prohibits its use in all public buildings and transport, and has outlawed its sale to under-18s. It also designates a fund to support tobacco control.


Dr Ehsan Latif, Director of The Union's Department for Tobacco Control said, 'The Union applauds the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Population, and the Supreme Court's strong support for tobacco control. Pictorial warnings are a proven strategy for communicating the deadly health impact of tobacco use.'


The Union's Department of Tobacco Control has been providing support to Nepal's MoHP and civil society organisations since 2009, and the government has been Bloomberg Initiative Against Tobacco Use grantee since 2010.

 

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