Monthly Archives: July 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)


UK: Concerns from Japan Tobacco about UK Plain Pack Consultation

July 9, 2012

The British government has already decided to require cigarettes to be sold in plain, brand-free packets even though it has not yet completed its consultation on the issue, cigarette maker Japan Tobacco claimed on Friday.

The group, which sells Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut cigarettes in Britain, believes Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s anti-smoking stance and a flawed consultation process suggests the government will push ahead with so-called plain packaging.

“There are worrying indicators that the Department of Health has decided to introduce plain packaging,” Martin Southgate, managing director of the UK for Japan Tobacco International (JTI) told a briefing on Friday.

“The government is trying to fit the evidence to meet a pre-determined view,” he added.

The Department of Health said no decision would be taken until the consultation had ended and the evidence analysed as it looks at ways to cut the number of young people taking up smoking and assist existing smokers who are trying to quit.

“We’re in the consultation process, and we have made no decision. We remain open-minded,” a department spokeswoman said.

Britain kicked off a three-month consultation process back in April on plain packaging as it looked to deter a habit which it says is responsible for over 100,000 UK deaths a year and puts pressure on the public health system.

It extended the process by a month to August 10 on Thursday after receiving thousands of responses and it said it wanted to make sure everyone who wanted to contribute can.

Just before the consultation was launched, Lansley was quoted in media interviews as saying “we no longer see smoking as a part of life” and that he wanted tobacco companies to have “no business” in the UK.

Australia is the only nation with firm plans to introduce plain packaging which will ban eye-catching designs and branding from cigarette packages with the packs displaying the product names in a plain typeface with graphic health warnings.

The Canberra government plans legislation to take effect by December, but big cigarette companies including Japan Tobacco are mounting legal challenges to fight the move in the Australian High Court.

JTI’s Southgate argues there is no credible evidence to suggest plain packaging will reduce youth smoking and it will exacerbate illicit trade which accounts for a fifth of the cigarettes smoked in the UK and loses the government around 3 billion pounds a year in lost excise tax.

“We are concerned that the Department of Health will aim to justify plain packaging using the best guess and subjective views of its preferred panel of individuals and that these people will be already involved in tobacco control work and studies,” he said.

The group, No 3 in the tobacco world after Philip Morris and British American Tobacco, is to spend 2 million pounds over the coming months on an advertising campaign against plain packaging which starts this weekend.

Japan Tobacco took over Gallaher in 2007 giving it a near 40 percent share of the UK cigarette market behind Imperial Tobacco at just over 45 percent, but ahead of BAT with just a 6 percent market share.

All three are opposed to plain packaging saying there is no evidence that such a move would have an effect and that it would simply increase illicit trade in cigarettes.

Source: Reuters (July 6, 2012)