Monthly Archives: January 2010

New text warnings in Cambodia

Jan 26, 2010

THE Health Ministry on Wednesday unveiled mandatory text-only cigarette warnings that all manufacturers and importers will need to include on packages sold in the Kingdom beginning in July, a regulation that has disappointed public health workers pushing for visual warnings, which are believed to be much more effective smoking deterrents.

The text-only warnings fall short of complying with recommendations outlined in the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which Cambodia became a signatory in November 2005. Article 11 of the convention states that health warnings should cover at least 30 percent of all cigarette packages and advises the use of pictures – “preferably shocking ones”.

Officials had indicated that they would require visual warnings on all cigarette packages as recently as May 2008, when all government ministers approved a series of graphic images that had been produced by the Health Ministry.

But at some point between the approval of the images and last October, when the cigarette warning sub-decree was formally adopted, the visual warnings requirement was dropped.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Wednesday that the decision to stop short of requiring visual warnings had been made in part because the government wanted to avoid insulting smokers.

“Smokers have a right to smoke,” he said. “We just want to warn customers, not insult them.”

He added that he did not know exactly when the decision had been made.

Anti-smoking advocates who have monitored the development of the warning labels expressed concern over the government’s decision, which they said would significantly lessen the measure’s impact.

“In the end, the Council of Ministers chose not to put the graphic warnings on the packets. It was obviously a disappointment to many of us in tobacco control, but that was their final decision,” said Mark Schwisow, country director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng defended the warnings at a press conference Wednesday. “We believe that those who smoke can understand the text even without graphics, because we have different kinds of text warnings,” he said.

Speaking at the same press conference, World Health Organisation representative Dr Pieter JM van Maaren refrained from criticising the text-only warnings, but he pointed out the benefits of visual ones.

“Warnings that use pictures or graphics in addition to text have been shown to be particularly effective in communicating risk,” he said. “This is especially true to the large number of people who can not read.”

Dr Yel Daravuth, national professional officer for the World Health Organisation’s Tobacco Free Initiative, echoed that point in an interview.

“We still want pictures on the packets, because pictures mean a lot to Cambodians,” he said. “Many people can’t read, but if they see the pictures they might understand what ‘lung cancer’ means.”

Article 9 of the October sub-decree calls for the following punishments to be levied against local manufacturers and importers that do not adhere to the warning label requirement: a written warning, temporary closure for first offenders and permanent closure for frequent violators.

“For temporarily postponing the business and permanently closing the business, there shall be approval from the leader of the Royal Government,” states the sub-decree, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday.

A widespread problem
Van Maaren said Wednesday that Cambodia has one of the highest rates of smoking in Southeast Asia – 48 percent of men and 3.6 percent of women over the age of 18 smoke cigarettes, and 17 percent of women and 1 percent of men chew tobacco, according to a 2005 survey that was published by the Ministry of Planning in 2009.

Mom Kong, director of the Cambodian Movement for Health, said in an interview at the press conference that the text-only warnings signify a step forward for anti-smoking campaigners.

But he said he hopes that visual warnings are required at some point.

“We hope that the government will take a further step by having pictorial health warnings in the future, as strongly recommended by the WHO,” he said.

“The graphic warning is the best measure to prevent smoking by young people who want to start to smoke.”

Mam Bunheng appeared to leave the door open for the eventual adoption of a visual warnings requirement, saying: “We are doing this step by step. We must enforce this text label effectively.” But he did not specify any concrete plans to expand on the text-only warnings.


Source: The Phnom Penh Post (January 21, 2010)

Mexico finalizes pictorial warnings

Jan 19, 2010

General Messages
by Mr. Rob Cunningham

Mexico has finalized requirements for a series of 8 pictorial warnings to appear on cigarette packages.
A picture-based message will appear on the top 30% of the front of the package, and will be accompanied by a text-only message (yellow text on a black background) that will cover 100% of the back.

As an average of the front and back, Mexico will be tied for the second largest package warnings in the world at 65% (30% front, 100% back). Uruguay has the lead at 80% (80% front, 80% back), followed by Mauritius at 65% (60% front, 70% back).

As a percentage of the front, however, at 30%, this is smaller than many countries. Having said that, Mexico is improving in terms of size on the approach found in Brazil and Venezuela, where warnings are required on 100% of one side (either front or back). So instead of having 100% of one side, Mexico will have 30% of front (pictures) and 100% of back (text only).

Mexico will also require one of a series of 8 text messages (yellow text on a black background) to cover 100% of one of the side panels. Each of the 8 side panel messages is to appear at the same time as particular specified messages on the front and back (there are 8 sets of front/back/side panel messages).

Mexico may well be the second country after Djibouti to require a rotating series of messages on side panels, in addition to rotating messages on the front and/or back. Djibouti finalized requirements in 2008, and messages are now appearing on packages available in Djibouti stores.

The new Mexico warnings will be effective September 24, 2010 (nine months after publication in the Official Journal, which occurred on December 24, 2009). To view the “Acuerdo” of the Secretary of Health, visit:

Acuerdo of December 24, 2009:…
To obtain Word version, go to the Official Journal (Diario Oficial de la Federacion) for Dec. 24, 2009, and you will see it under Secretaria de Salud (note: this Word document also contains a second document with a title that begins “Convenio Especifico …” that has nothing to do with tobacco).…

Also, you can get information by going to the following websites and going to “Mexico”: