The Tobacco Control Board, on Sunday, requested the Ministry of Health to publish new regulations prohibiting the sale of individual cigarettes as well as the implementation of mandatory pictorial warnings on cigarette packs, as published by the National Gazette.
Board members met with Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen to urge the implementation of the new regulations within the first 100 days of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration.
The regulations in question were initially drafted and sent to the President's Office for approval on September 2017. However, the previous government had not provided any reason for the delay in publishing the new regulations in the Gazette.
Vice Chair of the Tobacco Control Board Dr Aishath Aroona spoke to local media outlet Mihaaru, requesting the government to implement the regulations as soon as possible, thereby protecting citizens from the dangers of tobacco consumption.
According to Dr Aroona prohibiting retailers from selling individual cigarettes has been proven to discourage first -time smokers and nicotine addiction among the youth.
While cigarettes packs are sold with graphic warning images in many countries, Maldives continue to sell packs with only a written message.
The proposed regulations require the pictorial warnings to depict a disease caused by tobacco use, covering as much as 90 percent of the product's packaging. Further, the health ministry has already finalised the images that to be used.
"Research indicates the warnings are not as effective [when presented] in text. It [pictorial depiction] is the most beneficial way to encourage smokers to quit and to prevent people from becoming smokers", said Aroona.
Maldives signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2017.
It stipulates that the signatories must begin following tobacco regulations stated in the FCTC within a year of ratifying it. Currently, 105 countries across the world are already in compliance with the FCTC. Among the SAARC nations, only Maldives has yet to implement FCTC regulations.