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)