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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2733

Worldwide progress of Plain Packaging law

By Manjari Peiris of Sri Lanka

The Canadian Cancer Society has just released the international report of the 25 countries and territories that have adopted tobacco plain packaging or under consideration, 9 countries have adopted and 16 are working on it.

According to this report almost 120 countries and territories now require graphic picture warnings on cigarette packages. The report shows that there is tremendous international momentum for tobacco plain packaging.
The number of countries requiring plain packaging is expected to accelerate further because of the World Trade Organization (WTO) decision on June 28, 2018 that Australia’s plain packaging requirements are consistent with WTO’s international trade agreements.

The Canadian Cancer Society report – Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report – documents global progress on plain packaging, ranks 206 countries and territories on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages, and lists countries and territories that require graphic picture warnings.

The report found that 118 countries and territories have now required picture health warnings on cigarette packages, up from 100 in 2016. Canada was the first country to require picture health warnings, in 2001.

"There is an unstoppable worldwide trend for countries to use graphic pictures on cigarette packages to show the deadly health effects of smoking, and to require plain packaging," says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst, Canadian Cancer Society. “For plain packaging, Australia was the first country to implement the measure, in 2012, and now the dominoes are falling.”

Guidelines under the international tobacco treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), recommend that countries consider implementing plain packaging. Plain packaging includes health warnings on packages, but prohibits tobacco company branding, such as colours, logos and design elements, and requires the brand portion of each package to be the same colour, such as an unattractive brown. The brand name would still appear in a standard font size, style and location. The package format is standardized. Plain packaging puts an end to packaging being used for product promotion, increases the effectiveness of package warnings, curbs package deception, and decreases tobacco use.

Plain packaging has been implemented in Australia (2012), France (2016), the United Kingdom (2016), Norway (2017), Ireland (2017), New Zealand (2018) and Hungary (2018), will be implemented in Uruguay (2019) and Slovenia (2020), and is in process or under consideration in Canada, Belgium, Thailand, Georgia, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Romania, Jersey, Guernsey, Taiwan, Chile, Finland, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Cigarette package warnings are a highly cost-effective way to increase awareness of the negative health effects of smoking and to reduce tobacco use. Picture-based warnings convey a more powerful message than a text-only warning, and larger ones increase impact. The effectiveness of warnings is known to increase with size.
Guidelines under the FCTC recommend that warnings should:

• be as large as is achievable;

• include a rotated series of graphic pictures;

• be at the top of both the front and back of packages.

Picture warnings are especially valuable for low- and middle-income countries where there are higher rates of illiteracy and where governments may have few resources. Health departments determine the content of warnings, and the tobacco industry is responsible for printing the warnings on packages. Examples of graphic picture warnings include a diseased lung or mouth, a patient with lung cancer in a hospital bed and a child being exposed to secondhand smoke.

“That almost 120 countries and territories have implemented picture health warnings and that so many are moving toward plain packaging is extremely positive for global public health," says Cunningham. “The international momentum poses a threat to tobacco industry sales worldwide.”

Other report highlights include:

• 58% of the world's population is covered by the 118 countries and territories that have finalized picture warning requirements.

• East Timor (Timor-Leste) now has the largest warning requirements in the world at 92.5% on average of the package front and back; Nepal and Vanuatu are tied for second at 90%; New Zealand is fourth at 87.5%; and Hong Kong, India and Thailand are tied for fifth at 85%. In the 2016 report, Nepal and Vanuatu were top ranked at 90%.

• In total 107 countries/jurisdictions have required warnings to cover at least 50% of the package front and back (on average), up from 94 in 2016 and 24 in 2008. There are now 55 countries/jurisdictions with a size of at least 65% (on average) of the package front and back.

The top countries ranked by warning size as an average of the front and back of the package are:

1. 92.5% East Timor (Timor-Leste) (85% of front, 100% of back)

2. 90% Nepal (90%, 90%)

2. 90% Vanuatu (90%, 90%)

4. 87.5% New Zealand (75%, 100%)

5. 85% Hong Kong (S.A.R., China) (85%, 85%)

6. 85% India (85%, 85%)

7. 85% Thailand (85%, 85%)

8. 82.5% Australia (75%, 90%)

9. 80% Sri Lanka (80%, 80%)

9. 80% Uruguay (80%, 80%)

The Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report was released today in Geneva, Switzerland, at the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), being held October 1-6. The report is intended to support implementation of the FCTC. The FCTC has an obligation for parties to require health warnings that "should be 50% or more of the principal display areas but shall be no less than 30% of the display areas" and may be in the form of, or include, picture warnings. There are now 181 countries that are parties to the FCTC.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.

- Asian Tribune -

Worldwide progress of Plain Packaging law
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