Category Archives: News

New Zealand finalizes plain packaging regulations

Regulations standardising the packaging of tobacco products have been approved by Cabinet and released online, Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner and Maori Party Co-Leader Marama Fox say.

“More than 5000 New Zealanders die of smoking-related illnesses each year — that’s about 14 people per day, or more than one every two hours,” Ms Wagner says.

“Standardised packaging, along with the existing suite of tobacco control measures and stop smoking services, is the logical next step toward our Smokefree 2025 goal.

“It also sends a clear message that the Government is serious about ending unnecessary smoking-related illness and death.”

Ms Fox says standardised packaging will reduce the appeal of tobacco products and smoking, particularly for children and young people.

“The bland packs will maximise the impact of health warnings and cut out any false impression that smoking is cool or glamorous,” Ms Fox says.

“This will make a real difference to our whanau and communities who witness the harm smoking causes every day.”

Under the regulations, all cigarettes and tobacco products will be in brown/green-coloured packaging, with enlarged health warnings and brand names in a standardised font. The new packs will roll out from 14 March 2018.

For more detail on the regulations, visit: http://www.health.govt.nz/standardised-packaging.

Source: Nicky Wagner, New Zealand Government (June 8, 2017)

Plain packaging to begin in September in Ireland

Minister for Health, Simon Harris and Minister of State, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy today announced that the legislation for the standardised packaging of tobacco is to come into force in September 2017. This follows the signing of the commencement order today by Minister Corcoran Kennedy for the standardised packaging provisions of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015.

The aim of standardised packaging is to make all tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to prevent packaging from misleading consumers about the harmful effects of tobacco.

The signing of this order means that all tobacco products manufactured for sale in Ireland from 30th September 2017 must be in standardised retail packaging. There will be a wash through period allowed, meaning any products manufactured and placed on the market before the September date will be permitted to stay on the market for a 12 month period (i.e. until 30th September, 2018).
Standardised packaging means that:

  • all forms of branding – trademarks, logos, colours and graphics – are to be removed from tobacco packs,
  • The brand and variant names would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands and
  • the packs would all be in one plain neutral colour.

Minister Harris said “Smoking is a significant cause of ill-health in Ireland. Almost 6,000 people die from tobacco related disease and tobacco use. That is 6,000 families who go through the pain of losing a loved one when the stark reality is that these deaths are unnecessary and avoidable. It has been estimated to cost Irish society a total of €10.7 billion annually in healthcare, productivity and other costs. The Government is committed to changing that and standardised packaging of tobacco products is one such evidence-based measure that will assist in achieving our overarching goal of having Ireland tobacco free by 2025″.

Minister Corcoran Kennedy said “The tobacco pack is the last advertising medium for the tobacco industry in Ireland and so is a critically important form of promotion. Standardised packaging is the next step in tackling the promotion and advertising of tobacco. There is strong evidence emerging from Australia, that introducing standardised packaging is both effective and proportionate in reducing the toll of tobacco use on the population. Research has shown that younger people are more influenced by brands. Ireland has the lowest age of children starting to smoke among all the EU Member States and almost 80% of smokers in Ireland start when they are children. Standardised packaging will reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products and forms a key part of Ireland’s strategy to reduce tobacco use, particularly uptake among children and young people.”

Minister Corcoran Kennedy and Minister Harris paid tribute to their colleague Dr James Reilly for initiating this process when he was health minister. The Ministers also thanked the Non-Governmental Organisations for their continued support for this initiative.

ENDS
Notes to Editors

  • The development of legislation for the introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco products is one of the key actions identified in the 2013 Tobacco Free Ireland policy document. Tobacco Free Ireland sets a target for Ireland to be tobacco free by 2025. In practice, this will mean a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5%. The current daily smoking rate for those aged 15 and over is 19%. The two key themes underpinning the policy are protecting children and the denormalisation of smoking. The policy addresses a range of tobacco control issues and initiatives and contains over 60 recommendations, including the introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco products. It was the first policy document to be published under the Healthy Ireland Framework. The introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco advances Ireland in meeting the obligations set out in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
  • Ireland now joins Australia, the United Kingdom and France in having such legislation enter into force.

Source: Department of Health (March 29, 2017)

Tobacco company loses appeal against picture health warnings in Kenya

A court has dismissed an appeal seeking to stop tougher tobacco control measures that include graphic warning and annual levies to treat cancer patients.

British American Tobacco filed an appeal seeking nine months to implement health warnings contained in the 2014 Tobacco Control Regulations, which took effect in September last year.

They claimed it would cost about Sh93 million in one financial year to print the prescribed health warnings in order to comply with the regulations.

But Court of Appeal judge David Azangla’s Friday ruling quashed their case.

The Health ministry through state counsel Mohamed Adow successfully argued that BAT had already complied with the regulations as cigarette packets with graphic warnings are already in the market.

This is the second time the cigarette makers have lost their case.

In March last year, the High Court ruled against BAT, igniting proceedings at the Court of Appeal.

Sources within the company said they will not move to the Supreme Court to challenge the regulations.

In the meantime, cigarette makers are required to print gory anti-smoking images on all of their cigarette packets, a measure they had slowly started to comply with to even as they challenged it in court.

Each company must also pay to a central fund two per cent of the value of tobacco products it manufactures or imports every financial year.

The money will mainly fund the treatment of Kenyans sickened by tobacco products.

Friday’s ruling is a major win by the ministry of health, the International Institute for Legislative Affairs, Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance, and KEFSHA.

Across the world, countries are now moving to graphic warnings to discourage people from smoking, to prevent cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

A recent study showed smokers in Kenya are falling behind other countries in understanding that smoking leads to debilitating health effects, such as heart disease and stroke.

Only two-thirds of male smokers were aware that smoking causes heart disease – the second-lowest of 14 countries, higher only than China.

The study said Kenyan tobacco users want more information on tobacco packages to become better informed about the harms of tobacco use.

The study was done by an international research team at the Kenya Ministry of Health, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the International Institute for Legislative Affairs, the University of Nairobi, and the University of Waterloo.

Source: The Star, Kenya, John Muchangi (February 17, 2017)

Norwegian Parliament approves plain packaging legislation

The snowball that was set in motion in Australia in 2012 rolled through Norway today. An overwhelming majority of Parliament endorsed recommendations formulated on 1 December 2016 by the parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Care Services. The measure will be introduced at the same time as the EU Tobacco Products Directive measures on packaging and labelling.

Tobacco advertising is deadly. It seeks to addict people to a product that kills almost half of its long-term users. Today, Norway becomes one of the first countries in the world to introduce standardised cigarette packs and the first country to standardise smokeless tobacco boxes. Smokeless tobacco use increased dramatically among young people in Norway during the last decade. The new measure will contribute to ensure that children and young people never start with tobacco and thus avoid tobacco-related suffering and death.

Anne Lise Ryel, Secretary General of the Norwegian Cancer Society said:

“Norwegian politicians have taken a historic step forward to reduce the consequences of tobacco advertising. Advertising works, especially with children. Norway was the first country in the world to introduce bans on all traditional forms of advertising of tobacco products. Ever since, cigarette packs have become mini billboards for tobacco industry marketing. With this morning’s event, the tobacco industry loses its last vehicle to lure children into addiction, disease and possibly death. This is truly a ground-breaking public health reform, and a landmark day for the cancer cause”.

The Norwegian Cancer Society congratulated Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie for his leadership in support of the measure in the face of persistent pressure and campaigning from the tobacco industry.

Source: Erik Vigander, Norwegian Cancer Society (December 9, 2016)

Tobacco companies lose plain packaging appeal in UK

Three tobacco companies have lost their appeal against the government’s plain packaging rules for cigarettes packs.

The case, brought by British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International, comes after a challenge against the new rules was dismissed at the High Court in May.

The UK is the first country in Europe to require cigarettes to be sold in plain, standardised packaging,

The government has said it means a generation will “grow up smoke-free”.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH, said: “This is a victory for public health and another crushing defeat for the tobacco industry.

“This ruling should also encourage other countries to press ahead with standardised packaging, now that the industry’s arguments have yet again been shown to be without foundation.”
But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said the government was targeting the consumer as well as the tobacco industry with the new rules.

“Plain packs are unlikely to stop people smoking but the impact on consumer choice could be significant because some brands will almost certainly disappear from the market.”

“Tobacco is a legal product. The law should not impose excessive regulations on consumers who know the health risks and don’t need this type of finger-wagging measure.”

Source: BBC News (November 30, 2016)

Turkey to introduce plain packaging in 2017

The Health Ministry has announced new restrictions on cigarette sales as Health Minister Recep Akdağ revealed a rise in the rate of smokers in a country hailed for its exemplary anti-tobacco campaigns.

Speaking at a parliamentary session where the budget for his ministry was being discussed yesterday, Akdağ said they plan to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, a plan scrapped during the tenure of his predecessor and cigarette displays in stores will be covered to prevent attraction.

Akdağ said smoking among adults has decreased to 23.2 percent in recent years but it rose again to 27.3 percent and they needed “a serious program” to tackle the issue. “In 2017, we will introduce plain packaging where the brand of cigarettes will almost be invisible and sellers will be obliged to store the cigarettes in closed cases instead of transparent displays,” Akdağ said.

Smoking is one of the habits most associated with Turks and even led to the emergence of the expression: “To smoke like a Turk.” Today, the country, which has a high prevalence of smokers, is marking the seventh year since the most comprehensive smoking ban came into force. Figures show the ban, along with escalated taxes and free treatment for smokers, helped decrease smoking in the country. A World Health Organization (WHO) report released in 2015 showed a 12 percent decline in tobacco sales and a decline in the prevalence of tobacco smoking from 31.2 percent to 27.1 percent in the four years prior to the report.

Plain packaging is a practice that has had mixed success in the countries it has been implemented. The thinking behind the idea is that young people are the main target for tobacco companies who attract customers with shiny packaging.

The Health Ministry also plans to ban smoking in public parks, gardens and other public places, but specific areas will be designated for smoking.

In 2009, Turkey banned smoking in all indoor spaces, including restaurants, bars, cafes and similar establishments and, one year later, the ban was extended to smoking in various sites such as stadiums, mosque courtyards and hospitals. Then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a staunch teetotaler, is largely credited for the effective implementation of the ban that significantly limited space for smokers. Erdoğan did not abandon his anti-smoking policy after he was elected president and even though he officially has no say in daily politics, he personally sees that people he comes across give up the habit, seizing their cigarette packs before having them “pledge” to quit smoking until their next meeting. Turkey is among the top seven countries that have passed 100 percent smoke-free laws, according to the WHO. Moreover, Turkey is one of the few countries combating smoking effectively with efforts to curb smoking by helping addicts. Smokers are provided with Bupropion HCI and Varenicline, two drugs used as smoking cessation aids and nicotine replacements.

Source: Daily Sabah (November 14, 2016)

Canadian Cancer Society releases international report on cigarette package warnings

The Canadian Cancer Society has released the 5th edition of its report, Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report.

The report finds that there are now more than 100 countries and territories that require graphic picture warnings.

The report ranks 205 countries and territories based on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages and lists countries that have finalized requirements for picture warnings.

Cigarette Package Health Warnings report in English

Cigarette Package Health Warnings report in French

Health groups suing FDA over delay in implementing larger picture warnings on cigarette packs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is being sued over its delay in issuing a final rule about graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and ads.

The legal action was launched by eight public health and medical groups — including the American Cancer Society — and several individual pediatricians. They filed suit Oct. 4 in federal court in Boston.

Besides the cancer society, the organizations involved in the lawsuit are: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Truth Initiative.

Under a 2009 federal law, the FDA was given until June 22, 2011 to issue a final rule on graphic cigarette warnings covering the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs, and 20 percent of cigarette advertising.

The FDA met the deadline but the specific warnings required by the agency were struck down in August 2012 by an appeals court. However, the ruling applied only to certain images proposed by the FDA and did not affect the underlying requirement of the 2009 law.

In March 2012, another appeals court upheld the law’s requirement for graphic warnings and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a tobacco industry appeal of that ruling.

The court decisions mean the FDA is still legally obligated to require graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and ads, according to the lawsuit plaintiffs.

The FDA said in March 2013 that it planned to issue a new rule on those warnings but has yet to do so, even though several of the groups involved in the lawsuit have repeatedly urged the FDA to take action, according to a news release from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The lawsuit alleges that the FDA’s failure to issue a new rule is “agency action unlawfully withheld” and seeks a court order requiring the FDA to issue a new rule.

“The FDA has been in violation [of the 2009 law] for more than four years. During that time, over 3 million Americans, the vast majority of them minors, have begun to smoke on a regular basis. Half of them will die prematurely as a result of tobacco-related disease,” according to the lawsuit.

A 2013 study of graphic cigarette warnings in Canada suggests that if the United States had implemented such warnings in 2012, as planned, the number of adult smokers in the United States would have fallen potentially by as much as 8.6 million in 2013.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Tobacco kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs about $170 billion in health-care expenses each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: CBS News (October 4, 2016)

New Zealand adopts plain packaging legislation

Plain packaging for tobacco is on the way after legislation passed its final hurdle tonight.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga took a large cigarette packet prop into Parliament’s debating chamber to show what plain packaging could look like.

“This is what will make a difference,” he said.

“When cigarette packs come out of a smoker’s pocket or are left lying around on the table where others can see, there will be nothing but a drab, ugly background colour and large, prominent, graphic pictorial warnings.”

Lotu-Iiga said no other product was so widely used that posed such a direct level of risk to users. Smoking led to between 4500 and 5000 premature deaths in New Zealand each year, he said.

“This bill takes away the last means of promoting tobacco as a desirable product. It stops the promotion of smoking as cool, fun, glamorous.

“About 13 people die prematurely every day from smoking-related illnesses … this is a bill to protect children and young people from being tempted from trying cigarettes.”

The legislation passed 108 to 13 votes, with opposition from New Zealand First and the Act Party.

New Zealand First health spokeswoman Barbara Stewart said all parties would be in agreement as to the damage that smoking could cause.

However, New Zealand First had concerns about a lack of evidence that plain packaging was effective, and possible unintended consequences such as an increase in black market sales.

“We have to remind people that $1.6 billion in excise tax is going into the Government coffers every year … there is a clear ulterior motive here, and it is not public health, as it should be.

“We remain unconvinced that plain or standardised packaging is effective at reducing tobacco consumption.”

Plain packaging is part of measures designed to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025, a key goal of the Maori Party.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox referenced her confrontation with Imperial Tobacco spokesman Dr Axel Gietz on TV3’s The Nation in June.

Fox stormed out of the TV interview after accusing Gietz of “peddling death and destruction and misery”.

Tonight, she said last night she was visited by a person whose wife had recently died after being a smoker for 40 years.

“He came to bring me his wishes to tackle tobacco control in this country. He said she tried everything … e-cigarettes, patches, cold turkey.

“She could not kick the habit, and eventually she died trying. Today I want to remember her.”

Plain packaging for tobacco is likely to be in place early next year.

The Government in May released draft regulations and a consultation document which aims to standardise the look of cigarette packs.

New Zealand had been keeping an eye on the outcome of legal challenges against Australia’s plain packaging, one from tobacco firm Philip Morris and another from tobacco-producing countries via the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Australia won the case against Philip Morris in December.

The WTO challenge is ongoing, but the Government received advice late last year that the Government was on a “firm footing” to progress plain packaging because several other countries, including the UK and Ireland, had introduced it.

These countries did not face a challenge under the WTO.

A pack of 20 cigarettes in New Zealand will increase from about $20 now to around $30 in 2020 after hefty excise increases were announced as part of May’s Budget.

The tax on tobacco will rise by 10 per cent on January 1 each year for the next four years.
That is expected to bring in an extra $425 million in tax over that period.

It will affect the about 15 per cent of adult New Zealanders who smoke each day – about 550,000 people.

That rate increases to 35 per cent for Maori, and 22 per cent for Pacific people.

Lotu-Iiga last month released a consultation document that includes a proposal to legalise the sale of e-cigarettes in New Zealand.

Nicotine patches and gum can be bought, but nicotine e-cigarette liquid must be bought from overseas.

Other countries, like the UK, allow the e-cigarettes or vaporisers to be sold in supermarkets and dairies.

The products would not be allowed to be used in smoke-free areas, and safety measures including child-proof containers will be considered.

Source: New Zealand Herald, Nicholas Jones (September 8, 2016)