Yearly Archives: 2012

European Union: Proposed New Tobacco Directive – Bigger warnings and flavour ban

Dec 19, 2013

Today, after years in the making, the European Commission has adopted its proposal to revise the Tobacco Products Directive. The proposed legislation consists of new and strengthened rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented, and sold. More specifically, it bans the use of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) and smokeless tobacco products with characterising flavours and makes the use of large pictorial health warnings mandatory on cigarettes and RYO. It regulates cross border internet sale and foresees technical features to combat illicit trade. Moreover, measures are proposed for products that were not specifically regulated so far such as e-cigarettes and herbal products for smoking. Chewing and nasal tobacco will be subject to specific labelling and ingredient regulations. The existing ban for oral tobacco (snus) shall be maintained.

On the occasion of the proposal’s adoption, Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg said: “We delivered! The European Commission had promised a proposal on tobacco products by the end of 2012, and that’s what I’m presenting today to Health ministers and the European Parliament. The figures speak for themselves : tobacco kills half of its users and is highly addictive. With 70% of the smokers starting before the age of 18, the ambition of today’s proposal is to make tobacco products and smoking less attractive and thus discourage tobacco initiation among young people“. He added that “Consumers must not be cheated: tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products and this proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavourings are not used as a marketing strategy.

Why a revision of EU law?

The current Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC) dates from 2001. Since then, significant scientific, market and international developments have taken place. For example, new evidence on flavourings used in tobacco products and effectiveness of health warnings has become available. Novel products such as electronic cigarettes have entered the market and recent marketing strategies involve the use of attractive packaging and flavours. At international level, the EU and all of its Member States have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which entered into force in February 2005. As a consequence, some of the current provisions of the Directive have become outdated. Member States have also taken different regulatory approaches resulting in a divergence between Member States’ laws on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products.

The new proposal is responding to these developments and to requests from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers as well as the Commission’s own report on the Application of the Tobacco Products Directive of 2007 and 2009, which identified potential areas for improvement.

Main elements of the proposal:

The proposal foresees major revisions of the current Directive. It addresses in particular the following areas:

  • Labelling and Packaging: All cigarette and Roll Your Own packages must contain a combined picture and text health warning covering 75% of the front and the back of the package and must carry no promotional elements. The current information on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, which is perceived as misleading, is replaced by an information message on the side of the pack that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 substances causing cancer.Member States remain free to introduce plain packaging in duly justified cases.
  • Ingredients: An electronic reporting format for ingredients and emissions will be introduced. The proposal foresees a prohibition for cigarettes, roll your own tobacco and smokeless tobacco that have characterising flavours and a prohibition of products with increased toxicity and addictiveness.
  • Smokeless tobacco: The ban on oral tobacco products (snus) is maintained, except for Sweden which has an exemption. All smokeless tobacco products must carry health warnings on the main surfaces of the package and products with characterising flavours cannot be sold. Novel tobacco products require prior notification.
  • Extension of the scope of the Directive : Nicotine Containing Products (e.g. electronic cigarettes) below a certain nicotine threshold are allowed on the market, but must feature health warnings; above this threshold such products are only allowed if authorised as medicinal products, like nicotine replacement therapies. Herbal cigarettes will have to carry health warnings.
  • Cross border distance sales: A notification for internet retailers and age verification mechanism are foreseen to ensure that tobacco products are not sold to children and adolescents.
  • Illicit trade: A tracking and tracing system and security features (e.g. holograms) are foreseen to ensure that only products complying with the Directive are sold in the EU.

Process and Timelines

The proposal has been adopted following extensive consultation of stakeholders including a public consultation which generated 85,000 responses. During its preparation, a thorough impact assessment has been carried out, evaluating economic, social and health effects of several policy options under consideration. Several external studies were commissioned during the process.

As a next step, the proposal will be discussed in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers. It is expected to be adopted in 2014. It would come into effect from 2015-2016.

Further information:

Source: European Commission (December 19, 2012)


India: Bill for plain tobacco packs

Dec 10, 2012

Days after Australia stripped glamour off cigarette packets by becoming the first country to make plain packaging of tobacco packs mandatory, the clamour for India to walk the same road has only got louder.

Lok Sabha MP Baijayant “Jay” Panda on Wednesday introduced a Private Members’ Bill seeking plain packaging of tobacco products in India by making amendments to the current Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.

Garnering support from fellow MPs like D Raja, Supriya Sule and Ajay Kumar, Panda said, “Plain packaging of cigarettes is essential to reduce the appeal of tobacco use, especially among youngsters. In our country, where more than one million people die annually due to tobacco use and the annual health costs of tobacco-related illnesses are a staggering $6.5 billion, this proposed amendment to the Indian tobacco control law will reduce initiation into tobacco use.”

Australia in a landmark move passed legislation on plain packaging that was enforced on December 1.

Plain packaging amplifies the effects of pictorial health warnings which depict the serious health risks of consuming tobacco products.

“The tobacco industry uses attractive packaging and aggressive marketing to lure people into tobacco use. Australia is leading the way by introducing plain packaging as a powerful legislation to counter this industry tactic,” said Prof K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India.

“An initial stakeholder analysis conducted with legal, trade and other subject experts suggests that a decision to enforce plain packaging can be taken within the existing legal frameworks without violating any trade and intellectual property rights,” pointed out Monika Arora from Friday.

Source: The Times of India (December 6, 2012)

Canada: Federal goverment asks court to toss challenge over cigarette pack warnings

Nov 22, 2012

The federal government is urging an Ontario court to toss out a constitutional challenge launched by a tobacco company, saying any violation of freedom of expression over a requirement to include larger warnings on the surface of cigarette packages is justified.

In its new statement of defence, the government says the value of JTI-Macdonald’s right to commercial expression in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms “is tenuous, and at best, low.” The tobacco company, whose main brand family is Export ‘A,’ filed the constitutional challenge in April after the government brought in regulations to increase the size of warnings to cover 75 per cent of the surface of cigarette packs, up from 50 per cent.

The images, in circulation since 2001, were also updated with more graphic visuals.

Imperial Tobacco Canada has also launched a separate constitutional challenge in the Ontario Superior Court, but the government has yet to file a statement of defence in that case.

Both companies argue that requiring 75 per cent of the display surfaces of cigarette packages with graphic health warnings constitutes a restriction to their rights to communicate with their customers and to use their trademarks. They also restrict the rights of consumers to product information and fair competition, the companies argue.

JTI-M’s statement of claim also argues that there is no rational connection between the expansion of health warnings and reduction of tobacco consumption, noting there are already “exceptionally high levels of awareness” in Canada that smoking involves health risks.

“The legislative background and circumstances behind the impugned regulations make their actual objective at best unclear,” according to the company’s statement of claim.

In its statement of defence, the government said increasing awareness of specific health risks is vital to bringing smoking rates down, given that almost five million Canadians continue to smoke. It also makes clear it could have gone even farther.

“Health warning messages occupying 75 per cent are more effective than the HWMs occupying 50 per cent, but the 90 per cent and the 100 per cent scenarios are even more effective. In short, larger warnings are more effective. Health Canada conducted studies which established this, and these studies were considered in the decision-making process.”

The government also argues the regulations don’t restrict a tobacco company’s property rights or its right to use its trademarks. “In any case, neither property nor economic rights are protected by the Charter,” the statement of defence states, reiterating Health Canada could have gone with plain packaging.

Referring to the 75 per cent coverage as “the least restrictive option,” the government said it sought to balance the goal of improving the effectiveness of the health warnings with the desire of tobacco companies “to communicate product-related information to their customers.”

Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, says the constitutional claim of the tobacco company is “completely without merit,” pointing to the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007 that upheld regulations requiring health warnings to cover half of the panel of cigarette packs.

“The principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of Canada apply here,” said Cunningham. “The Supreme Court found that cigarette packaging deserves only a very weak level of protection in terms of freedom of expression. It was very far away from the core, such as political expression. But the objective of saving lives is extremely important.”

Source: Ottawa Citizen (November 21, 2012)


India: Plain packaging under consideration

Sept 22, 2012

India is considering plain packaging of cigarettes in line with new Australian laws that ban all logos and brand descriptions, a top health official in New Delhi said on Wednesday.

Tobacco products in Australia will be sold in drab, uniform packaging with graphic health warnings from December in a ground-breaking move that has attracted worldwide interest.

“It is a good idea and can be pursued,” Amal Pushp, director of tobacco control at the health ministry, told AFP. “We are watching the developments in Australia with interest.”

His comments came after Australian and Indian health experts presented a report by the University of Melbourne that found 275 million Indians use tobacco, leading to nearly one million deaths a year.

India’s health ministry welcomed the report and said that plain packaging as adopted by Australia could be taken up.

The World Health Organization has called on other countries to pass similar laws.

In plain packaging, graphic warnings are retained but all colour, imagery and corporate logos are taken off to reduce the appeal of smoking, especially among youngsters.

Manufacturers are allowed to print only the brand name on the pack in a limited font size.

“The tobacco industry uses attractive packaging and aggressive marketing to lure people,” K. Srinath Reddy, president of independent research group the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), told AFP.

“India must initiate legislation on plain packaging, which would have tremendous public health impact.”

In 2009, India began printing graphic health warnings on cigarette packets and other tobacco products.

One image attracted widespread publicity as it used an apparent picture of England footballer John Terry with a superimposed set of blackened lungs.

Source: Channel News Asia (September 5, 2012)


Australia: high court strikes down tobacco challenge

Aug 16, 2012

One of the world’s toughest cigarette labeling laws is set to take effect in Australia in December, after the country’s highest court ruled Wednesday against multinational tobacco companies that had sought to block the legislation.

Graphic images of mouth ulcers, cancerous lungs and gangrenous limbs will dominate the front of all cigarette packages sold in the country, and brand logos will be banned, after a landmark ruling by the High Court of Australia determined that the new laws were consistent with the Constitution and did not violate the rights of Big Tobacco.

In a suit with potential global ramifications that was closely watched by industry lobbyists and health advocates in Australia and abroad, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris Australia had argued that the new ban on brand logos would infringe on their intellectual property rights, an argument that was rejected by the court.

Legal experts said the decision Wednesday could set a precedent for other countries seeking to introduce harsher labeling requirements for tobacco products as a means to curtail smoking and its related health problems among their populations.

Benn D. McGrady, an adjunct professor at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University in Washington, said the specific implications of the decision would depend to a great extent on the detailed reasons for the decision, which the court has yet to issue.

Australian officials welcomed the ruling, which they hope will combine with some of the highest taxes in the world on tobacco to further drive down smoking rates.

“This is a victory for all those families who have lost someone to a tobacco-related illness,” Nicola Roxon, the attorney general, and Tanya Plibersek, the health minister, said in a joint statement. “No longer when a smoker pulls out a packet of cigarettes will that packet be a mobile billboard.”

The European Union already bans cigarette advertising on billboards, television, radio, print media and the Web. The Union also prohibits tobacco companies from sponsoring cross-border events. National governments can go further, and some member states have banned tobacco companies from distributing promotional merchandise like ashtrays and umbrellas.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the Union, plans to review its regulations on tobacco in the autumn. One option for the regulation would be to require plain packaging for cigarettes. John Dalli, the European commissioner for health and consumer policy, has said the final draft of the proposal would not go as far as Australia’s law. The commission said Wednesday it had no comment on the Australian ruling.

The Australian decision on the suit filed by the multinational tobacco companies was the last major legal hurdle to implementing the new rules, which require health warnings to cover 75 percent of the front of cigarette packages and 90 percent of the back starting Dec. 1.

Brand logos and colorful designs will be banned, with only a small space remaining where the brand name and variant of the cigarette can be printed. Packages will be required to be a uniform shade of olive green.

Tobacco companies criticized the ruling, which they said would do little to curb smoking and would instead provide a financial boon to organized crime groups that deal in smuggled tobacco products.

“We’ve always said the government had forced us down the legal path as we really didn’t want to take action,” said Scott McIntyre, a spokesman for British American Tobacco Australia, the local market leader and one of the largest tobacco groups by revenue in the world, with brands including Lucky Strike. “At the end of the day, no one wins from plain packaging except the criminals who sell illegal cigarettes around Australia.”

Tobacco is severely taxed in Australia, where smokers spend about 16 Australian dollars, or $16.80, for a single pack of cigarettes. Those packages already come with graphic depictions of the effects of smoking-related diseases, but the new rules go one step further by shrinking the brand labeling down to a point at which it becomes difficult to distinguish one company’s cigarettes from another’s.

Partly as a result, smoking rates in Australia have declined in recent years and stood at 16.4 percent among adult men and 13.9 percent among adult women as of 2010, according to figures from the Australian Cancer Council. In the United States, by comparison, most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control show the smoking rate is 21.5 percent among adult men and 17.3 percent for adult women.

Experts say the court decision effectively ends the tobacco industry’s legal battle against plain packaging in Australia.

But such labeling restrictions remain the subject of continuing consultations in the World Trade Organization, as well as the target of a challenge brought by Philip Morris Asia under an investment agreement between Australia and Hong Kong.

“Because the reasons for the High Court’s decision have not yet been released it remains to be seen how the case will affect challenges under international law, such as those brought at the W.T.O. and under investment treaties,” said Mr. McGrady of Georgetown University.

Still, opponents of the tobacco industry were hopeful that the court’s decision would prove to be a watershed moment in the global push for tougher labeling laws, causing similar action in countries around the world.

“The clear message from today’s ruling is that the tobacco industry can be beaten,” said Jonathan Liberman, a legal expert and director of the McCabe Center for Law and Cancer in Melbourne.

“When other countries are confronted with the tobacco industry’s legal threats, they will remember how empty those threats proved to be in Australia,” he said.

Source: The New York Times (August 16, 2012)

Australia: Court upholds logo ban on cigarette packages

Aug 15, 2012

Australia’s highest court upheld the world’s toughest law on cigarette promotion on Wednesday despite protests from tobacco companies that argued the value of their trademarks will be destroyed under new rules that will strip all logos from cigarette packs.   The decision by the High Court means that, starting in December, tobacco companies will no longer be able to display their distinctive colours, brand designs and logos on cigarette packs.   The packs will instead come in a uniformly drab shade of olive and feature graphic health warnings and images of cancer-riddled mouths and blinded eyeballs. The government hopes the new packs will make smoking as unglamorous as possible.

British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International are worried that the law will set a global precedent that could slash billions of dollars from the values of their brands. They challenged the new rules on the grounds that they violate intellectual property rights and devalue their trademarks.

The cigarette makers argued that the government would unfairly benefit from the law by using cigarette packs as a platform to promote its own message, without compensating the tobacco companies.   Australia’s constitution says the government can only acquire the property of others on “just terms.”

British American Tobacco spokesman Scott McIntyre said the company was disappointed in the court’s decision, but would comply with the law.   “Although the [law] passed the constitutional test, it’s still a bad law that will only benefit organized crime groups which sell illegal tobacco on our streets,” McIntyre said in a statement.   “The illegal cigarette black market will grow further when all packs look the same and are easier to copy.”   The court withheld its reasons for the judgment on Wednesday. Those will be released later this year.

Source: CBC News – The Associated Press (August 14, 2012)

New Zealand: Challenges for plain packaging

July 26, 2012

Prime Minister John Key has admitted that enforcing plain packaging on cigarette packets is not a “slam-dunk” policy due to the risk of legal challenges from tobacco giants and tobacco-producing countries.

The Government is seeking consultation on proposed changes to cigarette packaging, which it hopes will discourage smoking by cutting off the tobacco industry’s last avenue of marketing.

The plain packet regime has been pushed by the Maori Party, but Mr Key refused to commit to it yesterday .

“There is a lot of things we need to consider – I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk by any chance that plain packaging would take place but nor would I rule it out.”

Government documents released yesterday said legal challenges from tobacco companies could cost up to $6 million per case to contest, and challenges from countries for breaches of trade could cost up to $2 million.

The cost of potential compensation was “unable to be quantified” but would be based on the loss in value of the tobacco company’s investments, including its trademarks.

Mr Key said he had not been advised on compensation. “But if it ended up being the only way through this, then that would be yet another factor we’d have to take into consideration.”

The Australian Government was being sued for its plain packet regime by tobacco giant Philip Morris, which alleged that the new policy breached a free trade treaty with Hong Kong,

Tobacco-producing countries Ukraine, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic were also suing Australia through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), claiming plain packaging was a barrier to trade and a breach of intellectual property rights.

Free trade expert Professor Jane Kelsey, of the University of Auckland, said the Government should be concerned about the WTO case because New Zealand could face a similar challenge.

She said a WTO challenge on plain packaging would be complicated by New Zealand pressuring Thailand not to put warning labels on alcohol.

New Zealand did not have significant trade with the tobacco-producing companies which were suing Australia, but a WTO case would blemish New Zealand’s trading image.

Asked whether making changes in the tobacco sector could cause countries to retaliate by demanding changes to New Zealand’s product labelling – such as wine and dairy – Mr Key said it was “possible”.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said legal risks could be minimised, but not eliminated.

“We know global tobacco companies have deep pockets and they seek out opportunities for legal action,” she said. “The purpose of this public consultation process is to sift out the views of New Zealanders on this issue, before any decisions are made.”

Source: Otago Daily Times (July 24, 2012)


India: Plans for plain packaging

July 26, 2012

After putting pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, the Union Health Ministry plans to push for plain packaging.

Plain packaging could help bring down tobacco usage by heightening the effect of pictorial warnings, said a policy document by Australia-India Institute Taskforce on Tobacco Control released in New Delhi on Monday.

According to the plain packaging legislation in Australia, packaging of cigarette and hand-rolled cigarettes cannot have colours, embossing, logos, brand images and promotional information.

“We have a huge young population addicted to tobacco. Plain packaging, particularly the Australian case study, can be an example for India,” said Shakuntala Gamlin, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health.

“Despite inter-ministerial differences, we have been able to flag the issue of tobacco control. We are moving ahead. Let’s see how plain packaging can be introduced in India,” she said.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey says India has nearly 274.9 million tobacco users, the third-largest in the world. Tobacco kills nearly one million people every year due to related diseases such as cancer, heart and lung illness.

While the document recommends that India can introduce plain packaging as part of the comprehensive approach to combat tobacco use, experts say the country also needs to tighten enforcement and implementation of anti-tobacco laws.

“The laws have to be stricter and implementation needs to be strong. Government officials need to be sensitised so that they understand the whole tobacco issue,” said Monika Arora, head of health promotion and tobacco control at Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

“We are going to propose the policy document on plain packaging to the government through a series of consultations and face-to-face meetings. This will be with the key ministries involved – law ministry, health ministry and ministry of trade and commerce,” Ms. Arora told IANS.

The taskforce includes tobacco control experts from PHFI, Nossal Institute of Global Health from Melbourne (Australia) and voluntary organisations International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases and HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth).

“The tobacco industry uses attractive packaging and aggressive marketing to lure people. India must initiate legislation on plain packaging and ensure implementation of a policy that will have tremendous public health impact,” said K. Srinath Reddy, president, PHFI.

Source: The Hindu (July 23, 2012)

Fiji: Pictorial warnings in 2013

July 23, 2012

All tobacco manufacturing companies will need to have pictorial warnings on their cigarette packets come January 1st, next year.

Health Ministry spokesperson Peni Namotu says this is now a mandatory requirement – under the Tobacco Control Decree – following cabinet’s approval.

Now we have the labels in writing but it will carry more weight if it will have the actual picture of a lung that has been affected by smoking or probably rotten teeth – some of the impacts cigarettes have on smokers.”

The Ministry hopes that with the photographic warnings showing what smoking does to the body – people will turn away from smoking.

Meanwhile – those now found to be selling cigarettes without a license will be taken to task as the registration period has ended

Now it’s enforcement time for us – to see that all people selling cigarette now have the license and basically they have to present it when required.

Around 3 million people around the world die from smoking related deaths each year.

Source: FBC News (July 22, 2012)


Sri Lanka: Support for decision on pictorial warnings

July 23, 2012

National Cancer Hospital (NCH), Medical Officer Dr. Samadhi Rajapaksa yesterday hailed the Government’s reassurance of printing ‘Pictorial Health Warnings’ on cigarette packets to discourage Sri Lankans from smoking cigarettes and to save around 20,000 people from cancer-related illnesses every year.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer, Dr. Rajapaksa also welcomed the Government’s decision of strictly banning smoking at public places, including in public transport and places of entertainment.

He also cautioned non-smokers to move away from places where people are smoking and warned parents to protect their children from second-hand smoking as it too causes lung cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight and serious respiratory conditions.

Dr. Rajapaksa lamented that 80 percent of patients, currently seeking admission in the NCH suffer from tobacco-related diseases.

The time has come to educate smokers on the negative side of smoking, he said. He said cigarettes contain 4,000 harmful substances of which 40 percent have a direct impact on cancer.

He quoted examples from countries such as Canada, Malaysia, India, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and stressed that pictorial health warnings on tobacco products are the most influential modes in communicating the risks of tobacco use to users.

Dr. Rajapaksa said one third of Sri Lankan males are smokers while a few females from affluent classes too are in the habit of smoking.

He said according to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills more than five million people every year.

One tobacco death occurs every six seconds.

Tobacco killed 100 million people in the 20th Century and if preventable measures are not taken it could kill one billion in the 21st Century. Dr. Rajapaksa thanked the head of Jeewaka Foundation Manjari Peiris, who conducts regular workshops countrywide to educate people on the negative side of smoking in collaboration with the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol against smoking.

Source: Sunday Observer (July 22, 2012)