Yearly Archives: 2014

Nepal increases size of pictorial warnings

December 2, 2014

The government has made an amendment to the ‘Directives for Printing and Labelling of Warning Message and Graphics in the Boxes, Packets, Wrappers, Carton, Parcels and packaging of Tobacco Products-2011’.

As per the amendment, tobacco companies must give more space on packets of cigarettes and tobacco related products to pictorial warnings against health hazards of tobacco consumption.

The coverage area of pictorial warnings in the wrappers, packets and other packaging of the tobacco products has been increased to 90 per cent from the existing 75 per cent, according to the amendment.

The Ministry of Health and Population said the amendment will come into force from May 16 next year.

Earlier, the Directives had made it mandatory to cover 75 per cent space with pictorial warnings against health hazards of tobacco consumption on the wrappers and packets of the tobacco products since November last year. “The decision has been made with a view to discouraging people, especially the young generation, from using tobacco products. Tobacco products cause various non-communicable diseases and the amendment in the law is expected to help minimise the risks,” said Minister Adhikari.

Tobacco use causes various non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart problems and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

According to MoHP, any company violating the Directives will be liable to punishment as per the law.

In Nepal, more than 25,000 people die every year due to diseases caused by excessive use of tobacco. Nepal imports tobacco products worth Rs 28 billion annually.

Source: The Himalayan Times (October 30, 2014)

Online Afro Tobacco Pack Warning Resource Launched

December 1, 2014

The Afro Tobacco Pack Warning Resource is now available online, thanks to the work carried out by the World Lung Foundation in cooperation with the Convention Secretariat and some Parties.

The main objective is to provide easy access to a database of warnings developed specifically for use in Africa – utilizing pictures taken in and tested across sub-Saharan Africa – for governments in the region that would like to implement graphic warnings on tobacco packaging. It thereby facilitates their implementation of Articles 11 (packaging and labelling) and 12 (education and public awareness) of the Convention.

The images are arranged in several categories: smoking health harms, second-hand smoke, contents and socioeconomic consequences. The database also includes links to best practices around the world.

The work has been carried in the overall context of South-South cooperation for implementation of the Convention.

Click here to access the database

Source: World Health Organization (November 29, 2014)

India to introduce larger pictorial warnings

November 10, 2014

October 15 marked a historic day for India, with the introduction of the world’s largest PHWs (Pictorial Health Warning). The Health Minister of India, Dr. Harsh Vardhan announced that the new Pictorial Health Warnings on cigarette packets would cover 85 percent of the principal display area of tobacco packs.

This is a huge improvement on the current average size of 20 percent of the principal display areas of packets (40 percent of one side of cigarette packs). India would have the unique distinction of joining Thailand, when this new regulation is enforced, of having the largest health warnings in the world across all tobacco products. India’s warnings are applicable to all tobacco products, including beedis and smokeless tobacco products.

This initiative will greatly benefit particularly the lower socio-economic sections of the population among whom the use of non-cigarette tobacco products is considerably high. The new warnings are scheduled to appear on packs in less than six months, that is on April 1, 2015.

It is noted that tobacco companies take advantage of the current warnings that are relegated to the bottom of the pack. The companies instruct retailers to stack the packs in a manner that obscures the warnings from public view in order to defeat the right to ‘Informed Choice’ by potential consumers. Thus India has chosen to adopt new laws by learning from past errors.

According to the guidelines of Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), new warnings are required to be aligned at the top edge of the pack and are scheduled to rotate every two years.

In addition, the tobacco industry will not be able to carry any messages or pictures that promote specific tobacco brands or tobacco use that are inconsistent with the predetermined warnings. It could help to address any misleading or deceptive descriptors such as ‘light’ and ‘mild’ which are used by tobacco companies to downplay the harm caused by their products.

In India, packs come in all shapes and sizes, from boxes to pouches to containers, cylindrical, conical or rectangular. When in 2006 India proposed PHWs occupying 50 percent of the total display area of tobacco packs, the tobacco industry interference delayed and diluted its implementation in and out of courts. Thus the new warnings are a true indication of meeting political will and careful preparations by the Government of India and steady consistent advocacy by civil society groups. In recent years India has come up with stringent rules to curb the use of tobacco – all tobacco related advertisements are banned and the sale of tobacco products to minors is an offence. A country-wide ban on smoking in public places came into effect in 2008.

Source: Manjari Peiris, The Nation (October 26, 2014)

France to introduce plain packaging

September 26, 2014

France plans to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes as part of an effort to reduce one of the highest rates of smoking among major European countries.

Plain packaging will be enforced as part of a law to be presented in coming months, Health Minister Marisol Touraine said today at a Cabinet meeting. The ministry doesn’t have a timetable yet for putting the plan into effect.

France is joining the U.K. and Ireland in moving toward banning distinctive and alluring tobacco packaging. With 31 percent of adults smoking daily, France has the third-highest rate of smoking in Western Europe behind Greece and Austria, according to the World Health Organization. That compares with 14 percent in the U.K. and 24 percent in Germany, the WHO says.

“There is no miracle cure for tobacco addiction,” Touraine said today. “Neutral packaging is one measure among others to efficiently fight the industry’s marketing.”

The law will allow for the cigarette brand names to be stated on the packages with standardized ‘neutral’’ lettering. Touraine aims to cut the number of smokers in France by 10 percent by 2019 and for the country to have less than 20 percent of adults smoking by 2024.

The British health ministry said in April branded cigarettes could be banned as soon as next year.

Forcing companies to sell cigarettes in plain packs could undermine profits by making it hard to raise prices at a time when global tobacco consumption is falling, according to Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.

Imperial Tobacco, the maker of Gauloises Blondes and Davidoff cigarettes, says the packaging ban won’t work and is considering legal action.

“The plain-packaging debate rumbles on in a small number of countries including France, but the case remains that there is no credible evidence to support its introduction anywhere,” Imperial said in an e-mailed statement. “It makes no sense for the French government to rush in.”

Policy makers, tobacco executives and analysts are looking to Australia, where standardized packaging was introduced in December 2012. After a year and a half of plain packaging there, both sides of the argument claim victory.

The tobacco firms say the introduction has led to an increase in illicit tobacco sales. Anti-smoking group ASH says Australian government figures showing a drop in adult smoking rates are a direct result of plain packaging.

British American Tobacco Plc picked up those arguments today.

“It is baffling that without any form of consultation with businesses or the public, a French Health Minister would propose a policy which breaches several European Union laws,” BAT said in a statement. “Not only would plain packaging not help achieve any health benefit but it would reduce much needed tax revenue for the French Government as more French smokers turn to the black market for branded packs or travel to buy tobacco at border shops”

Source:  Mark Deen and Gabi Thesing, Bloomberg (September 25, 2014)


South Africa plans plain cigarette packaging by 2015

July 28, 2014

South Africa aims to force cigarette companies to sell products in plain packets by next year, despite an ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) investigation into Australia’s ban on tobacco branding, the health minister said on Thursday.

South Africa, New Zealand, France, India and Britain are all considering adopting standardized packaging on tobacco products but the African country hadn’t previously given a time frame.

Opponents of the law, who say it is heavy-handed and an invitation to counterfeiters, had hoped other countries would hold off from following Australia’s example pending a WTO case addressing complaints by tobacco-producing countries.

“I am not even sure we can wait for that WTO decision. We can start making preparations now,” South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Reuters.

“I want it as soon as possible but realistically and most probably it would be next year,” said Motsoaledi, a former smoker who quit in his final year of medical studies more than three decades ago.

Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab, olive-colored packets that look more like military or prison issue, with brands printed in small fonts.

The WTO put together a panel on May 5 to judge on a dispute between Australia and tobacco lobbies who say the legislation is a barrier to trade and restricts intellectual property.

The panel has six months to make its ruling but the dispute could drag on for many more months or even years if countries appeal or disagree over the level of compliance.

As well as its huge importance for the global tobacco industry, the case could have implications in other sectors, as some public health advocates see potential for plain packaging laws to extend into areas such as alcohol and unhealthy foods.

South Africa already has bold health warnings on packaging and has banned smoking in many public places but health experts want tougher restrictions, including a ban on puffing in cars when traveling with children under the age of 12 years.

“We are losing gains we’ve made in the last decade and it is imperative we implement plain packaging,” said Priscilla Reddy, a professor at the Human Sciences Research Council in Cape Town.

“It is the only and obvious route to better public health, particularly among youth,” Reddy added.

The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2012 tobacco killed six million people worldwide, 600,000 of whom were non-smokers killed by inhaling smoke passively.

Motsoaledi said he expected a fight from the tobacco industry but remained undaunted.
“They are going to be very vocal and kick dust and we are prepared to fight,” he said.

Source: Wendell Roelf, Reuters (July 24, 2014)

Australia: Decline in smoking rates attributed to plain packaging

July 17, 2014

A dramatic decline in smoking rates has coincided with the introduction of plain-packaging laws.

The daily smoking rate plunged from 15.1 per cent to 12.8 per cent between 2010 and 2013, according to the largest and longest-running national survey on drug statistics.

Most people are now 16 before they smoke their first full cigarette, up from 14 in 2010, and 95 per cent of 12 to 17-year-olds have never smoked.

Public health experts say the findings of the National Drugs Strategy Household Survey vindicate plain-packaging laws, which tobacco companies recently claimed to have boosted cigarette sales by leading to a price war.

“It’s almost like finding a vaccine that works very well against lung cancer,” said Simon Chapman, a professor in public health at the University of Sydney.

“It’s that big. This will give enormous momentum to the international push for plain packaging right around the world.”

India and France are considering plain packaging laws. Ireland, New Zealand and Britain have legislation before their parliaments.

The survey of nearly 24,000 Australians was conducted between July and December 2013, before the new 12.5 per cent tobacco tax.

“We know that that tax has a lot of influence over consumption so it’s really important that the data was collected before that,” Professor Chapman said.

“The only thing that happened in the 12 months before that was the introduction of plain packaging laws.”

Geoff Neideck of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which conducts the survey every two to three years, said the results were continued a longer trend, which has seen smoking rates halved since 1991.

The plain-packaging laws should be seen in the context of changing attitudes and cultural practices, he said.

Sixteen-year-old Gabe Hutcheon said on Wednesday he had no desire to try smoking.

“My granddad died from it, so I’ll go my whole life without smoking,” he said.

“It’s expensive, but I don’t care about that. All the ads show what it can do.”

The price of the the average packet of cigarettes has been in a steep upward trajectory since 2000.

Gemma Jones, 16, agreed, although she doubted whether the plain packaging was a deterrent.

“If people want to smoke they will do it,” she said. “It’s stupid, smells like shit and it kills people.”

The president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Mike Daube, said they were the best results he had seen in his 40-year career in health policy.

The National Preventative Health Taskforce in 2009 set a target of 10 per cent adult prevalence by 2018.

“I think we are now going to beat that, and once we’re below 10 per cent I think we will see an even faster decline as smoking essentially becomes an abnormal behaviour,” Professor Daube said.

He attributed the figures to effective media campaigns, tax increases and bipartisan political approach to reducing smoking, as well as the plain packaging laws.

“The plain packaging has been a crucial factor in the last two to three years,” he said.

Source: Harriet Alexander, Sydney Morning Herald (July 17, 2014)

Thailand: Pack warnings set to increase to 85%

July 2, 2014

The size of health warning graphics on cigarette packets in Thailand is set to almost double over the next three months.

The Public Health Ministry won its case against tobacco giants to force companies to increase the size of graphics on Thursday. The order came into immediate effect.

Speaking at the press conference yesterday, Department of Disease Control (DDC) deputy director-general Nopporn Cheanklin said winning the case was a huge step in the right direction.

“There are many countries that want to increase the size of cigarette health warnings. This case can be a model for them,” he said.

According to the new measure, a package must carry a graphic covering 85% of the cigarette packet. Currently, only 55% of a cigarette packet is required to be covered by a health warning graphic. The 1600 quit-smoking hotline number must also appear on the packet.

In each carton, 10 packets of cigarettes will have to carry 10 different styles of health warning graphic. A variety of graphics within each carton is required to prevent manufacturers only printing the less shocking images.

Dr Narong Sahametapat, public health permanent secretary, said the ministry would give tobacco companies 90 days for retailers to clear out stocks of product using the smaller-sized health warning graphics.

Officials will begin to survey cigarette vendors on September 23.

Any manufacturers or importers who do not comply with the new measures will face a fine of up to 100,000 baht. Retailers will face fines of up to 20,000 baht, Mr Nopporn said.

The ministry will issue a letter to the Customs and Excise Department, urging it to watch out for imported cigarettes that do not comply with the new law.

The measure was originally due to take effect on Oct 2 last year, until it was opposed by tobacco giants.

Japan Tobacco International (Thailand) Limited and JT International SA — importers of popular cigarette brands including Winston and Mild Seven/Mevius — filed a lawsuit against the ministry last year.

They asked the court to abolish bigger graphics and order a temporary injunction against the measure being enforced until the court process was over.

The companies were granted an injunction in August, delaying the measure’s enforcement date.

The court ruled the ministry’s measure was legally problematic and agreed that it would cause an excessive burden on the plaintiffs who would have to redesign how packaging was manufactured.

The ministry appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) a month later.

On Thursday it was agreed that the injunction would be scrapped. According to the SAC, the ministry had proceeded lawfully.

Source: Paritta Wangkiat, Bangkok Post (June 28, 2014)

UK publishes draft plain packaging regulations

June 26, 2014

Plain packaging for cigarettes will come a step closer when ministers announce regulations to enact the historic move on Thursday.

The Department of Health’s confirmation that it is finally bringing forward the regulations will delight doctors and health charities, who have been growing increasingly concerned about ministers’ failure to do so by their promised deadline.

When the government’s review on plain packaging of cigarettes reported on 3 April, Jane Ellison, the public health minister, embraced its endorsement of the plan and said she would bring forward draft regulations by the end of that month.

This will finally happen on Thursday through a written ministerial statement to MPs.

The government initially supported plain packaging, but then dropped the plan in July 2013, amid suspicions that the Conservatives’ election strategist, Lynton Crosby – a lobbyist who had been involved in opposing the move in Australia – had persuaded David Cameron not to pursue it. However, widespread anger in the medical community and the Department of Health’s continuing support for plain packaging forced a rethink.

Thursday’s move will not necessarily guarantee plain packaging will be pushed through before the general election in May. The statement will say there will be a further, short public consultation and negotiations with the EU, which will take about six months, before the plans are enacted in the UK.

The new, second consultation is thought to be necessary to help the government defeat any legal moves to delay or outlaw plain packaging by tobacco firms, which fear it will damage their profits.

In December 2012 Australia became the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging. The move was widely supported by doctors as a way of deglamourising smoking and deterring children from smoking.

New Zealand and France have pledged to follow suit, while Ireland has recently introduced primary legislation to do the same.

Ellison has said that if standardised packaging were introduced “it would be very likely to have a positive impact on public health”.

The government’s review, by Sir Cyril Chantler, said the importance of plain packaging should not be underestimated.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said it had taken “far too long” for the government to publish plans on how standardised packaging would be implemented in the UK.

“Tobacco is a killer product and it is misleading for it to be presented in glitzy packaging. Every day of delay allows the tobacco industry to tempt more young people into adopting a deadly habit,” he said.

“The government is fast running out of parliamentary time. It must now act with speed and decisiveness to ensure this crucial public health measure is law before the election.”

Source: The Guardian (June 26, 2014)

Note: The ‘Consultation on the introduction of regulations for standardised packaging of tobacco products’, includes draft regulations and is available at:

Ireland becomes first EU country to introduce plain packaging legislation

June 10, 2014

The Minister for Health, James Reilly, T.D. announced today that the Government has approved the publication of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 and the presentation of the Bill in the Seanad.

“Ireland will be the first country in the European Union to introduce such legislation and the third country worldwide. Australia introduced plain packaging legislation in November 2011 and the New Zealand Bill had its first reading in Parliament on 11th February this year. I understand that other EU countries are also considering such legislation” said the Minister. “This represents a significant step forward in our tobacco control policy and our goal of being a smoke free country by 2025”.

If enacted the Bill approved today will control the design and appearance of tobacco products. It will remove all forms of branding including trademarks, logo, colours and graphics from packs, except for the brand and variant name which will be presented in a uniform typeface. The objective of the Bill is to make tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to reduce the ability of the packs to mislead people, especially children about the harmful effects of smoking.

“One of my key goals as Minister for Health is to prevent our children and young people from starting to smoke. Approximately 5,200 Irish people die each year from diseases caused by smoking. These are all preventable, avoidable deaths” said the Minister. “Given all we know about the dangers of smoking, it is not acceptable to allow the tobacco industry to use deceptive marketing gimmicks to lure our children into this deadly addiction and to deceive current smokers about the impact of their addiction. The introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product in Ireland. Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry”.

The tobacco industry has invested heavily in pack design in order to communicate specific messages to specific groups. This Bill will take away one of the industry’s means of promoting tobacco as a desirable product. As the majority of smokers start when they are children, packaging elements are, by definition, directed mainly at young people. The reality is that 1 in every 2 children who smoke will become a smoker and for those who become addicted 1 in every 2 of them will die of a tobacco related disease. The consequences for them, their families and the health services are enormous.

“There is a wealth of international evidence on the effects of tobacco packaging in general and on perceptions and reactions to standardised packaging which support the introduction of this measure. I am confident that the legislation will be supported and justified on public health grounds and by the fact that it will contribute to reducing the number of lives lost by smoking tobacco products. ’ Minister Reilly concluded.

Source: Irish Department of Health (June 10, 2014)

France considering move to plain packaging

June 9, 2014

France is considering a move to brandless packets to curb smoking, instituting one of the world’s toughest anti-tobacco policies in the home of chain-smoking singer Serge Gainsbourg and no-filter Gauloises cigarettes.

Health Minister Marisol Touraine is due to present a law next month that would stop cigarette manufacturers from printing their distinctive logos on packages, Le Figaro newspaper reported on Friday.

Plain packaging, with the cigarette brand written in small lettering under a graphic health warning, would be among a raft of radical measures to curb smoking, including a ban on using e-cigarettes, or “vaping”, in public places, Le Figaro said.

Australia pioneered plain packaging for cigarettes in 2012 and Britain, New Zealand and Ireland all plan similar bans.

In a statement, France’s Health Ministry said it was studying several options to curb smoking.

“We are far from the point of taking any decisions and no particular course of action has been determined so far,” the ministry said.

With its cafe culture and chain-smoking Nouvelle Vague movie stars, France earned a reputation as a smokers’ paradise after World War Two. Iconic dark-tobacco brands like Gitanes, favoured by Gainsbourg, who smoked up to five packs a day, and Gauloises, preferred by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, grew hugely popular, in part thanks to their stylish packaging.

While the reputation sticks, smoking rates in France have since plummeted. Less than a third of the population now lights up regularly, which is about average for the European Union and down sharply from nearly 60 percent in the 1960s.

Tough anti-tobacco laws were introduced in 1991 which banned smoking in public places, forced cigarette manufacturers to display health warnings on packets and forbade large-scale advertising on billboards and TV.

Advocates of plain packaging argue that stripping packets of eye-catching logos is effective in reducing smoking among young people. Currently, one in three French people aged 15 to 19 is a smoker, according to the Health Ministry.

As French smoking rates have declined, so has the country’s once-vibrant tobacco industry. The state-owned Seita brand that produced Gauloises and Gitanes was bought by Britain’s Imperial Tobacco in 2008, and much of its production moved abroad.

In April, Imperial Tobacco announced the closure of the largest Gauloise cigarette factory in France, prompting the factory’s 327 workers to go on strike and hold five managers hostage on the worksite, near Nantes, this week.

The managers were released on Thursday after a day of captivity.

Source: Nicholas Vinocur, Reuters UK (May 30, 2014)