Monthly Archives: June 2016

New Zealand and Norway plan for plain packs

New Zealand and Norway intend to force tobacco companies to remove branding on cigarette packets and other tobacco products as more countries follow the lead of Australia across the world.

The New Zealand government, which aims to become a smoke-free nation by 2025, is proposing plain cigarette packaging with all tobacco imagery removed and with prominent and gruesome health warnings covering at least 75 percent of the front of the packs. The Norwegian government will send a bill to parliament in June that would strip tobacco products of logos, Health Minister Bent Hoeie said at a conference in Oslo Tuesday.

Australia has led the way in plain packaging after legal challenges failed to overturn new tobacco branding laws there. The U.K., Ireland and France were the first European countries to back the measure, which prompted legal challenges from cigarette makers including Philip Morris International Inc. and British American Tobacco Plc.

“The louder they scream, the more effective the measure must be,” said Douglas Bettcher, a World Health Organization director who spoke in Oslo on the occasion of World No-Tobacco Day. “The tobacco industry’s nightmares are in fact lifesavers.”

Brand names will be allowed in New Zealand but regulations will standardize printing and placement, Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said. The regulations are expected to take effect after legislation is passed later this year, he added.

New Zealand announced last week that the tax on tobacco will be increased by 10 percent each year for the next four years, driving the price for a standard pack of 20 cigarettes up to around NZ$30 ($20).

Norway will require cigarettes and snus — a form of smokeless tobacco — to be sold in dark green packs. Young people in the country have been smoking less though their use of snus has increased dramatically in the past decade, according to the government.

“It will look like the addictive and dangerous product it is,” Norwegian Health Minister Hoeie said. “We are moving toward a smoke-free generation. Someday tobacco will look as unbelievably outdated as smoking in airplanes.”

Source: Matthew Brockett, Bloomberg (May 30, 2016)

World Health Organization: Get ready for plain packaging

Recent moves to introduce plain (standardized) packaging of tobacco products can save lives by reducing demand for tobacco products, according to WHO and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat (WHO FCTC).

Plain packaging of tobacco products restricts or prohibits the use of logos, colours, brand images and promotional information on packaging other than brand and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.

In December 2012, Australia became the first country to fully implement plain packaging. On 20 May 2016, France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland each began implementation of plain packaging. Ireland is also preparing to introduce the measure, while other countries are exploring the option.

How plain packaging works

“Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products. It kills the glamour, which is appropriate for a product that kills people,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “It restricts tobacco advertising and promotion. It limits misleading packaging and labelling. And it increases the effectiveness of health warnings.”

Plain packaging is recommended in WHO FCTC guidelines as part of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control that includes large graphic health warnings and comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Australia’s story

Smoking in Australia has been steadily declining for years. Australia introduced plain packaging, in conjunction with new and enlarged health warnings, in 2012. Between December 2012 and September 2015, there was an additional 0.55 percentage point fall in smoking prevalence among those aged 14 and above attributable to the packaging changes, according Australia’s post-implementation review. This equates to more than 108,000 people quitting, not relapsing or not starting to smoke during that period.

Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) and Mental Health, says Australia’s plain packaging results demonstrate the great potential of the measure. “Plain packaging can reduce consumption of tobacco products, as clearly seen in Australia. It offers a powerful tool to countries as part of a comprehensive approach to tackle the scourge of tobacco use,” says Dr Chestnov.

The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day – Get ready for plain packaging – highlights this new trend in global efforts to control tobacco products, which kill almost 6 million people annually, notes Dr Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s Director for the Prevention of NCDs.

Defying the tobacco industry

“Plain packaging is going global as more and more countries seek the important health gains it can bring to communities,” says Dr Bettcher. “The tobacco industry has been getting ready for plain packaging for some time, conducting massive misinformation campaigns to block the measure.”

“So it is encouraging to see more and more countries defy the industry’s tactics and implement plain packaging to reduce demand for tobacco products and put the health of their populations first.”

To mark World No Tobacco Day, WHO is launching a new guide to plain packaging of tobacco products, which gives governments the latest evidence and guidance on implementing the measure.

“Most governments are committed to curbing the tobacco epidemic and reducing tobacco-related harm, such as deaths from cancers, heart and lung diseases,” says Dr Vera da Costa e Silva, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat. “It is vital they have access to evidence-based, effective guidance that can support their efforts to protect the health of their populations.”

Click here for materials from the World Health Organization in support of the theme for World No Tobacco Day: Get Ready for Plain Packaging.

Source: World Health Organization (May 31, 2016)

Canada launches consultations on plain packaging

Big tobacco was dealt another blow this week after Canada kicked off a process to strip cigarette packs of their branding, following similar moves by Australia and the U.K.

Canadian Health Minister Jane Philpott announced Tuesday a public consultation on plain packaging requirements for tobacco products. Plain packaging requires a uniform standardized color and font on all packages an also regulates the size and shape of products.

Over five million Canadians use tobacco, costing almost $4.4 billion in annual direct health care costs according to data from the Government of Canada.

Plain packaging aims at diminishing the appeal of smoking to youngsters and other potential smokers. In Canada, 85% of adult daily smokers had smoked their first cigarette by the age of 18, according to the government.

“I don’t believe tobacco companies should be allowed to build brand loyalty with children, for a product that could kill them,” said Dr. Philpott. “Research shows that plain packaging of tobacco products is an effective way to deter people from starting to smoke and will bolster our efforts to reduce tobacco use in Canada.”

The consultation will run until the end of August.

British American Tobacco PLC, Philip Morris International Inc. and Japan Tobacco Inc. are the three largest cigarette companies in Canada, according to data from Euromonitor.

Canada’s move comes after the U.K. begun implementing plain packaging for cigarette packs last month after a legal challenge against the measure by tobacco companies failed. Separately, the European Court of Justice recently upheld the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive, which paves the way for countries to put in place plain-packaging laws.

Australia became the first country to fully implement plain packaging, starting in 2012.

France recently passed legislation requiring plain packaging, with the law coming into effect last month. Ireland and Hungary have also passed plain-packaging laws. A total of 20 countries are looking at plain-packaging regulation, according to Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog. The U.S.’s free-speech laws make plain-packaging legislation all but impossible there.

Earlier this week on World No Tobacco Day, World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan endorsed plain packaging saying, “it kills the glamour.”

The tobacco industry has pushed back hard, filing lawsuits in which it claims plain packaging is ineffective.

Imperial Tobacco Canada, Canada’s largest tobacco company and a unit of British American Tobacco PLC, has lashed out at the Canadian government, accusing it of hypocrisy by regulating tobacco while taking steps to move ahead with legalizing marijuana.

“Announcing more tobacco regulations is an easy political win that will generate headlines, but do nothing to further reduce smoking rates,” said Imperial Tobacco Canada’s Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Eric Gagnon.

“Plain packaging is a gimmick policy that does not work, ”said Igor Dzaja, general manager of Japan Tobacco’s JTI-Macdonald Corp. unit.

By contrast, WHO and other health bodies have pointed to data from the Australian government showing that smoking prevalence in those aged 14 and up has fallen by 0.55 percentage points because of packaging changes in the country.

Source: Saabira Chaudhuri, Wall Street Journal (June 1, 2016)