Monthly Archives: July 2014

South Africa plans plain cigarette packaging by 2015

July 28, 2014

South Africa aims to force cigarette companies to sell products in plain packets by next year, despite an ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) investigation into Australia’s ban on tobacco branding, the health minister said on Thursday.

South Africa, New Zealand, France, India and Britain are all considering adopting standardized packaging on tobacco products but the African country hadn’t previously given a time frame.

Opponents of the law, who say it is heavy-handed and an invitation to counterfeiters, had hoped other countries would hold off from following Australia’s example pending a WTO case addressing complaints by tobacco-producing countries.

“I am not even sure we can wait for that WTO decision. We can start making preparations now,” South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Reuters.

“I want it as soon as possible but realistically and most probably it would be next year,” said Motsoaledi, a former smoker who quit in his final year of medical studies more than three decades ago.

Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab, olive-colored packets that look more like military or prison issue, with brands printed in small fonts.

The WTO put together a panel on May 5 to judge on a dispute between Australia and tobacco lobbies who say the legislation is a barrier to trade and restricts intellectual property.

The panel has six months to make its ruling but the dispute could drag on for many more months or even years if countries appeal or disagree over the level of compliance.

As well as its huge importance for the global tobacco industry, the case could have implications in other sectors, as some public health advocates see potential for plain packaging laws to extend into areas such as alcohol and unhealthy foods.

South Africa already has bold health warnings on packaging and has banned smoking in many public places but health experts want tougher restrictions, including a ban on puffing in cars when traveling with children under the age of 12 years.

“We are losing gains we’ve made in the last decade and it is imperative we implement plain packaging,” said Priscilla Reddy, a professor at the Human Sciences Research Council in Cape Town.

“It is the only and obvious route to better public health, particularly among youth,” Reddy added.

The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2012 tobacco killed six million people worldwide, 600,000 of whom were non-smokers killed by inhaling smoke passively.

Motsoaledi said he expected a fight from the tobacco industry but remained undaunted.
“They are going to be very vocal and kick dust and we are prepared to fight,” he said.

Source: Wendell Roelf, Reuters (July 24, 2014)

Australia: Decline in smoking rates attributed to plain packaging

July 17, 2014

A dramatic decline in smoking rates has coincided with the introduction of plain-packaging laws.

The daily smoking rate plunged from 15.1 per cent to 12.8 per cent between 2010 and 2013, according to the largest and longest-running national survey on drug statistics.

Most people are now 16 before they smoke their first full cigarette, up from 14 in 2010, and 95 per cent of 12 to 17-year-olds have never smoked.

Public health experts say the findings of the National Drugs Strategy Household Survey vindicate plain-packaging laws, which tobacco companies recently claimed to have boosted cigarette sales by leading to a price war.

“It’s almost like finding a vaccine that works very well against lung cancer,” said Simon Chapman, a professor in public health at the University of Sydney.

“It’s that big. This will give enormous momentum to the international push for plain packaging right around the world.”

India and France are considering plain packaging laws. Ireland, New Zealand and Britain have legislation before their parliaments.

The survey of nearly 24,000 Australians was conducted between July and December 2013, before the new 12.5 per cent tobacco tax.

“We know that that tax has a lot of influence over consumption so it’s really important that the data was collected before that,” Professor Chapman said.

“The only thing that happened in the 12 months before that was the introduction of plain packaging laws.”

Geoff Neideck of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which conducts the survey every two to three years, said the results were continued a longer trend, which has seen smoking rates halved since 1991.

The plain-packaging laws should be seen in the context of changing attitudes and cultural practices, he said.

Sixteen-year-old Gabe Hutcheon said on Wednesday he had no desire to try smoking.

“My granddad died from it, so I’ll go my whole life without smoking,” he said.

“It’s expensive, but I don’t care about that. All the ads show what it can do.”

The price of the the average packet of cigarettes has been in a steep upward trajectory since 2000.

Gemma Jones, 16, agreed, although she doubted whether the plain packaging was a deterrent.

“If people want to smoke they will do it,” she said. “It’s stupid, smells like shit and it kills people.”

The president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Mike Daube, said they were the best results he had seen in his 40-year career in health policy.

The National Preventative Health Taskforce in 2009 set a target of 10 per cent adult prevalence by 2018.

“I think we are now going to beat that, and once we’re below 10 per cent I think we will see an even faster decline as smoking essentially becomes an abnormal behaviour,” Professor Daube said.

He attributed the figures to effective media campaigns, tax increases and bipartisan political approach to reducing smoking, as well as the plain packaging laws.

“The plain packaging has been a crucial factor in the last two to three years,” he said.

Source: Harriet Alexander, Sydney Morning Herald (July 17, 2014)

Thailand: Pack warnings set to increase to 85%

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)