December 14, 2011
International tobacco companies will stop the current packaging of products by July 2012 as the rollout process of pictorial warnings on tobacco products begins.
The first cigarette pack with the health warnings will hit the stands in August next year.
Major tobacco companies, mainly international, were on Monday given copies of the five approved pictures and printing specifications that will be compulsory on all tobacco products starting August next year as per the federal Anti-Tobacco Law. The meeting was the first in the series of awareness sessions with stakeholders.
By August, no product without an Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (Esma)-approved certificate will be allowed into the country. Local companies will also be asked to stop the current packaging within this time frame. The Esma will meet with the companies after the deadline expires and assess the time required to clear existing stock with the current labels, said Mohammed Badri, Director-General of the Esma, while addressing the gathering. Other governing bodies such as municipalities will also be involved at a later stage.
Manufacturers also agreed to give samples to the Esma for approval before launching the new products in the market.
Majority of the representatives from the international companies refused to comment on the issue.
A local manufacturer who was not present in the meeting told Khaleej Times that adding pictures would mean increasing costs by at least 20 per cent. “We need special colour printers and scanning facilities,” said a representative of a Fujairah-based company manufacturing a brand available locally and for export as well. He also said that more than the printing costs, the annually increasing price of tobacco is a source of concern.
“Each year, tobacco prices go up by 30-35 per cent and if we are forced to increase even 25 fils per packet a year, the customers will feel the pinch,” said the representative. As per the specifications, the warnings and pictures will be printed on a white background and will cover 50 per cent of the pack.
Manufacturers raise issue of cigar packs
The current GCC-approved specifications for tobacco packaging and labelling do not include a provision for cigars that may have to be packaged differently.
Manufacturers said on Monday at the meeting that cigars were available in at least more than 50 types of packaging.
Cigars, they said, are valuable only after they age. Some cigars dated from 1950 can cost up to $5,000 per cigar. “We have a warehouse full of cigars that we have to age and hence we cannot stop production by July,” said a manufacturer. Esma Director-General Mohammed Badri, however, said that the law applies to all types of tobacco.
“This issue will be discussed with the GCC committee,” he said.