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January 25th, 2017:

New warnings on cigarettes

Government has taken further steps to protect the public from the harmful effects of tobacco.

According to Minister of Health, John Boyce, producers, manufacturers and distributors of cigarettes will now have to ensure that included in the packaging and labels of cigarettes are graphic illustrations and strong wording to inform persons of the dangers of tobacco, and to discourage its use. Piloting the Health Services (Amendment) Bill in the Lower House yesterday morning, he said they will be given a reasonable timeframe to become compliant.

“Up until now cigarette packages in Barbados have been very liberal in terms of their designs and the packaging… I think there is a mention that the Minister of Health indicates that cigarette smoke is dangerous for your life. However, we’ve always felt we had to move beyond that and the internationally accepted battle is to move to a regime where the packaging is even more stark; and along with the messaging from the Minister of Health or the Chief Medical Officer in the country, we want to add to it some graphic illustration of the conditions which we could find ourselves having to deal with, if we continue to abuse or use cigarettes at all,” he told fellow Members of Parliament.

Those steps, he said are consistent with the guidelines set out in Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. With that in mind, he explained that the package and label of any tobacco product should not contain any information that is false, misleading, defective or likely to give erroneous information about the characteristics, health effects or hazards of the tobacco product. He speaking particularly in relation to terms used on cigarettes packages such as “low tar”, “light” “mild” and “slim”.

“We do not recognise these are terms that change the form of the cigarette from dangerous to not dangerous. The Ministry of Health does not subscribe and indeed the Framework does not subscribe to that distinction… We’ve decided as a country, we have decided as a region, and indeed we’ve decided internationally that we have to fight back against these marketing forces,” he said.

Minister Boyce went on to say that the package and label will give full disclosure about the harmful and hazardous health effects through graphic pictorial warnings. These warnings, he said, will cover the front and back area of the product to a minimum of 60 per cent. In addition, Boyce said, there will be written warning attributable to the Minister of Health and or the Chief Medical Officer. The warnings, he explained, will speak to such health issues as blindness, impotency, and stillbirth, dangers of second hand smoke and mouth diseases.

He added that the standard for packaging and labelling was adopted out of a CARICOM standard approved by the Council of Health Ministers of the region, and facilitated by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality and the Barbados National Standards Institution. That work, he stated, started as far back as 2013. (JRT)

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