Monthly Archives: September 2011

Australia Minister: Plain Packaging Receives Global Praise

Sept 28, 2011

Health Minister Nicola Roxon has returned from the United Nations, where she says ministers from around the world applauded the Federal Government’s tobacco plain-packaging legislation.

If passed, all cigarette brands in Australia will be sold in olive green packaging from July 2012.

The pictures of diseased body parts, sickly babies and dying people will cover 75 per cent of each packet, and tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text will be banned.

But the legislation has to pass the Senate, while tobacco companies have also threatened to sue the Government if the bill is passed.

Ms Roxon has been busy preaching about the Government’s plans at UN headquarters in New York.

“There’s enormous interest in the Gillard Government’s plain-packaging legislation,” she said.

“It really is exciting the world and reinvigorating the debate about the ways to reduce harm from tobacco.

“We have countries from Norway and Uruguay, through to France and South Africa and the US, even New York mayor [Michael] Bloomberg, all interested in what we’re doing.

“I think the number of times that there was spontaneous applause when we were presenting this at different forums is an indication that our presentation and our action is striking a chord with other countries and making them look again at what they might be able to do in their own country.”

Ms Roxon says there was some sense that other countries are waiting to see how the Australian Government survives the battle with big tobacco before they act.

But she says it helped that she was able to meet officials from countries being sued by tobacco countries.

“We know that this is the way tobacco companies operate, it’s their usual course of business, and they sue countries and are currently doing it right now as we speak for introducing measures that we’ve had in Australia for many decades,” she said.

“I don’t think we should be scared off by threats of legal action.

“It was good to be able to compare stories for countries that are also being courageous in tackling tobacco, and we know that lawsuits is part of it.

“Some countries are watching and waiting, others are ready to take this action irrespective of what might happen in the courts.”

‘Huffing and puffing’

Ms Roxon says tobacco companies are scared of the Australian Government setting a precedent with the laws.

“I’m sure that part of the huffing and puffing from big tobacco companies is that they are terrified for other countries following us,” she said.

“We have a relatively low smoking rate because of our other successes in controlling the use of tobacco in Australia.

“So we’re a fairly small market but certainly they don’t want a precedent set.”

Tobacco legislation has fallen off the program in the Parliament twice in the last two months, and it is not back on the Parliament agenda until October.

Ms Roxon says the Senate is being frustrating with the legislation.

“Unfortunately the mysteries of the Senate mean that sometimes they spend a lot of time debating when they’re going to debate things rather than actually doing the debating,” she said.

“I won’t be the first minister of a government to be a bit frustrated about that timing, but do remember that these laws are scheduled to come into being on the first of January next year.

“We are keen for them to be passed; we have commitments and enough votes for it to pass the Senate.

“It’s now just a matter of programming for it to be on. I would have liked it to have been passed last week, but the Senate was unable to reach it.”

Source: ABC Melbourne (September 26, 2011)

Canada: New warnings by June 2012

September 27, 2011

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq today announced the finalization of regulations to require the new set of health warnings on packages of cigarettes and little cigars.  The warnings will increase in size from 50% to 75%.  The warnings will be required at the manufacturer/importer level as of March 21, 2012, and at the retailer level as of June 19, 2012.

The new requirements include

  • A set of 16 new package health warnings, with an increase in warning size from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of the package front and back.
  • The use of testimonials, notably warnings featuring images of the late Barb Tarbox before she died of lung cancer, as well as Leroy Kehler who speaks through a hole in his throat following cancer of the larynx (voice box).
  • The addition of a toll-free quit line number and a web address to the warning messages.
  • For the first time, warnings about certain health effects, e.g. bladder cancer and vision loss, are included.
  • A set of eight new full-colour picture-based messages appearing inside the package.
  • An improved set of toxic emission messages that will appear in rotation on the side of the package, to replace the existing message.

Regulations to prohibit the use of the descriptors “light” and “mild” have also received final approval.  These misleading terms have already been removed for most (but not all) brands, pursuant to individual company settlements with the federal Competition Bureau.

To see the newly required messages, visit:http://www.tobaccolabels.ca/healthwarningimages/country/canada

US: Injunction Hearing for Pictorial Warnings

Sept 23, 2011

A federal judge peppered a government lawyer with questions Wednesday expressing doubts about whether the Food and Drug Administration can force tobacco companies to post graphic images on their cigarette packages showing the health effects of smoking.

In a two-hour hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon closely questioned Justice Department lawyer Mark Stern on whether the nine graphic images proposed by the FDA convey just the facts about the health risks of smoking or go beyond that into advocacy – a critical distinction in a case over free speech.

The cigarette companies sued in an effort to block the FDA from enforcing the requirement, which would go in effect a year from now.

The images include a cloud of cigarette smoke within inches of a baby’s face; a pair of healthy lungs next to the diseased lungs of a smoker and a warning that smoking causes fatal lung disease; a smoker’s stained teeth and a lip diseased by cigarettes; and a dead smoker on an autopsy table with surgical stitches in his chest and the words “Smoking can kill you.”

If the judge were to conclude the images amount to advocacy, that would make it more likely that the tobacco companies would be able to block the government’s latest move in regulating the industry.

Leon said he hopes to issue a ruling by the end of October.

Lawyers for the tobacco companies argued that the government is free to tell people how to live – through steps such as enacting smoking bans on teenagers and by requiring written, factual warnings on the sides of cigarette packages from the surgeon general about the effects of smoking.

But what the government cannot do is “conscript” the companies “into an anti-smoking brigade,” noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams told the judge.

The judge questioned Stern about why the images did not amount to advocacy. “What do you say is the line” between advocacy and fact? he asked Stern.

“This is not an ordinary product” and the images coupled with written warnings are designed to communicate the dangers to the public – including youngsters as well as adults, Stern replied.

Tobacco companies are increasingly relying on their packaging to build brand loyalty and grab consumers. It’s one of few advertising levers left to them after the government curbed their presence in magazines, billboards and TV.

In June, the FDA approved nine new warning labels that companies are to print on the entire top half of cigarette packs, front and back. The new warnings, each of which includes a number for a stop-smoking hotline, must constitute 20 percent of cigarette advertising, and marketers are to rotate use of the images.

The companies, led by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., sued the FDA last month to block the labels. Other plaintiffs are Commonwealth Brands Inc., Liggett Group LLC and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc.

Altria Group Inc., parent company of the nation’s largest cigarette maker, Marlboro maker Philip Morris USA, is not in the lawsuit.

The tobacco industry’s legal challenge could delay the new warning labels for years. Such a delay would likely save cigarette makers millions of dollars in lost sales and increased packaging costs.

Source: ABC News (September 21, 2011)

Interactive cigarette packaging with QR code

Sept 23, 2011

Ronhill Unlimited is the first interactive cigarette packaging in the world with QR code as a part of its design. Scanning the QR code takes you to a regional (ex-Yu) mobile web site where the user can find the nearest place where smoking is allowed by using the map that automatically shows his current location.

Ronhill Unlimited is a product of the SE Europe’s leading tobacco manufacturer – TDR. Design and communication were made by the advertising agency Bruketa&Žinić OM and its digital sister agency Brlog, who are one of the most awarded design and advertising agencies in SE Europe, with over 300 international awards.

Market situation: Because of the new act that prohibits smoking in public places, there is a lot less places where smoking is allowed.

Solution: A cigarette packaging that tells you where the nearest place is you can have a smoke. Ronhill Unlimited contains a QR code on the back of its packaging that the user can scan with a mobile phone directing him to a regional mobile web page which is updated on daily basis. There the user can find the nearest place where smoking is allowed by using the map that automatically shows his current location. The user can also add new locations himself.

Click here to view the project video presentation.

Source: Packaging Europe (July 21, 2011)

Gulf States: Pictorial warnings for 2012

Sept 23, 2011

Smokers in the Gulf oil producers could have second thoughts to continue smoking when they come face to face with grim images on the hazards of such a habit occupying most of their cigarette packages or tobacco products under a new law approved by member states this week.

The law will be enforced in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in August 2012 and it includes unified graphic warnings to be printed on all cigarette boxes and tobacco used in hookah and other smoking tools.

Images of ill people, skeletons, black teeth and other discouraging pictures along with warning phrases will have to be stuck on half of both sides of the cigarettes box and other packed tobacco products.

“Sticking warning pictures on all tobacco products will achieve several benefits including increasing public awareness of smoking hazards and encouraging smokers to give up…these images will also be effective among the illiterate smokers and children and I think they will reduce the attractiveness of smoking,” said Majid Al Muneef, head of the anti-smoking unit at the Saudi health ministry.

“The new regulations will be enforced at the end of August 2012 and they were approved after we noticed that the present warning labels are not enough,” he told the Saudi Arabic language daily Sabq.

The move is the latest in a series of GCC measures to curb smoking among their 42 million people. The measures included raising cigarette prices, customs duty on tobacco imports many times, and banning smoking in public places.

The six members, which control over 40 per cent of the world’s oil, have been discussing doubling cigarette prices to nearly Dh14 a pack.

Industry sources said the ban on smoking in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman has allied with a decision to stop shops from selling tobacco to people under 20 years to cut sales by 12 per cent in 2010.

They estimated total sales across the region at about 60 billion cigarettes a year with Saudi Arabia remaining the largest market given its relatively large population. Dealers now expect their business volume to decline further due to increased taxes and restrictions in regional markets.

According to official Saudi data, smoking drains more than SRfive billion ($1.3 billion) from the Gulf Kingdom’s coffers annually because of medical treatment costs besides other losses, including fires associated with cigarettes.

The report showed around 6.2 million people are smokers in Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy and the world’s top oil exporter. The number accounts for nearly 34 per cent of the Kingdom’s national population, spending more than SR12 billion ($3.2 billion0 on cigarettes and tobacco a year.

“The Saudi Heart Association expects the number of smokers in the kingdom to rise to more than 10 million in 2020.”

The GCC move follows a similar decision in the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said early this year it was releasing graphic warning labels for cigarette packages, moving away from the smaller print warnings currently found on cartons.

It released nine new graphic warnings for cigarette packages today – the first new labels in more than two decades. The new warnings, which depict the negative health impact of cigarettes, are required to cover at least 50 percent of every pack of cigarettes sold in the U.S by mid-2013.

“The introduction of these warnings is expected to have a significant public health impact by decreasing the number of smokers, resulting in lives saved, increased life expectancy and lower medical costs,” FDA said.

The new labels replace the smaller, text-only warnings that have appeared on packages for more than 25 years and feature jarring images, including a man with a tracheotomy hole and a mouth filled with rotting teeth.

They are a result of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in 2009. It gave the government authority to regulate the marketing and labeling of tobacco products, which are currently responsible for nearly 450,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.

Source: Emirates 24|7 (September 22, 2011)

US FDA to Tobacco Companies: You already lost fight over graphic labels

Sept 14, 2011

If you haven’t already seen the images that the Food and Drug Administration will require tobacco companies to include on cigarette packages, take a look. They’re disgusting: rotting teeth and gums, blackened lungs, a patient with a Frankenstein scar running down his chest. Congress’s 2009 Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the first update of cigarette warning labels since 1984, was supposed to give the FDA the power to depict the health consequences of smoking with color graphics. These labels, approved in June after a two-year rule-making process, sure do that.

In August, a group of tobacco companies claimed that the new labels violate the industry’s constitutional rights. In a 41-page complaint filed in Washington, D.C., federal district court, the tobacco companies argued that the labels are an unprecedented attempt to force them to serve as mouthpieces for the government’s anti-smoking message. “This is precisely the type of controlled speech that the First Amendment prohibits,” the complaint claimed. “While the government may require plaintiffs to provide purely factual and uncontroversial information to inform consumers about the risks of tobacco products, it may not require [tobacco companies] to advocate against the purchase of their own lawful products.”

The complaint asks for a declaratory judgment that the tobacco labels are unconstitutional and a preliminary injunction blocking the FDA from implementing the new labeling rules.

But as the FDA pointed out in a 55-page response Friday, there’s a bit of a roadblock in the industry’s way. To win a preliminary injunction, the tobacco companies have to show that they’re likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment argument. That will be very tough, the FDA argued, since they’ve already lost that case. In 2009, three of the plaintiffs in the declaratory judgment suit were part of a different coalition of tobacco companies that sued the FDA in Bowling Green, Ky., federal court, raising First and Fifth Amendment challenges to the Tobacco Control Act. Ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment (after denying Big Tobacco’s preliminary injunction bid), Judge Joseph McKinley Jr., upheld the law’s constitutionality in a Jan. 10, 2010 ruling. (Both sides appealed aspects of the ruling; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit heard the appeal in July.)

The FDA argued that the new suit is simply a reboot of the old, failed case. “Plaintiffs’ new suit reprises arguments already considered and rejected in [the previous suit],” the filing said.

The tobacco companies-which represented by a crackerjack lineup of law firms, including Jones Day; Cahill Gordon & Reindel; Latham & Watkins; O’Melveny & Myers; and Covington & Burling-claim that the new suit is different from the old one because when they first sued, the FDA hadn’t settled on precisely which images tobacco products would carry. The FDA has countered that the industry considers any color graphic to be a violation of its First Amendment rights-an issue Judge McKinley has already decided.

D.C. judge Richard Leon will have to sort the whole thing out. I’ll let you know when he does.

Source: Thomson Reuters (September 12, 2011)

Pakistan: Pictorial warnings having an impact

September 9, 2011

The pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs is proving effective as smokers are now facing a tough opposition from their families in continuing their smoking habit.

The picture of half-cut mouth on the cigarette pack gives a very bad feeling. Now, instead of keeping a cigarette pack in my pocket, I buy only two or three cigarettes whenever I have the urge for smoking. This way, I have cut down my daily intake of cigarettes, said Hafeez Ahmed, a teacher on Sunday.

Hafeez said he used to smoke almost 20 sticks a day but due to constant resistance from his wife and daughter, he is avoiding to keep with him cigarette packet.

Another smoker, Ayaz Gul, running a shop in Islamabad, said that he has not yet stopped smoking after the implementation of pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs, but for the very first time in his life he was seriously thinking about quitting smoking.

I am trying to reduce the number of cigarettes that I smoke every day in a bid to stop this bad habit, he added.

Taking out a cigarette from a pack which is bluntly telling you its consequences is just like preparing to commit suicide, said Raja Niaz, a labourer.

He said that he was also a smoker, but he quit smoking after contracting chest infection. Some smokers are thinking about quitting smoking, a few have bought fancy cigarette cases to avoid the wrath of their family members.

A cigarette kiosk owner at Super Market said people, especially young smokers, demand a stylish cigarette case, adding that many people also ask for old cigarette packs as they dislike the new packing whose 30 percent is covered with horrifying pictures.

While families of smokers are appreciative of Ministry of Health which they said has done a remarkable job by implementing the new graphical warnings on cigarette packs.

A wife of a smoker said that she has started a movement in her house, along with children to compel her husband to quit smoking.

The pictures on cigarette packs have compelled me to do so for the sake of health of my husband. Life of my husband is very important for the entire family and I just want that he should quit smoking to avoid risks of fatal diseases, she added.

Source: The News International (September 3, 2011)

Malta: Retailers to face court action on health warnings

Sept 2, 2011

The owners of 38 outlets are to be taken to court for selling cigarette packets which did not carry pictorial health warnings, the Environmental Health Directorate said today.

It issued a statement after the GRTU filed a judial protest saying that retailers should be able to sell stocks which they had legally acquired.

The directorate explained that evidence from countries where pictorial warnings had already been introduced showed that images had a greater impact than text warnings alone.

In Malta, consultation meetings with stakeholders were held on  December 18, 2008 and September 11, 2009 but the GRTU (which represents retailers) did not attend, despite having been invited.

A legal notice on pictorial health warnings was issued on October 27, 2009 in line with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and a decision taken by the European Commission on September 5,  2003.

The directorate explained that the legal notice was meant to come into force 18 months after publication in case of cigarette packaging, and 24 months in case of other tobacco packages, giving ample time for retailers and traders to produce new packaging and use up all existing stock.

Nonetheless, during April 2011, market surveillance indicated that various outlets were not in compliance. A warning was issued to all retailers  that non-compliant stock should be removed by June 22, 2011, thus allowing an extension of two months.

The GRTU were also informed of this extension directly by means of an email.  Notwithstanding all above communications GRTU never approached the Directorate with any comments, objections or suggestions.

Enforcement was initiated by the Health Inspectorate on June 27. To date, 783 inspections of retail outlets have been carried out.

The directorate said 38 outlets were found to be selling cigarettes packets in breach of this legal notice. The cigarette packets were sealed and the operators will be taken to court.

Source: Times of Malta (September 1, 2011)