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Health Warning

Big Tobacco is losing the fight to stop plain packaging of cigarettes

Dr Enrico Bonadio, a Senior Lecturer in the City Law School, says the tobacco industry’s bid to avoid plain packaging by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights, is being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2017/may/big-tobacco-is-losing-the-fight-to-stop-plain-packaging-of-cigarettes

You may already have seen the tobacco packs currently sold in the UK: a dark, murky green colour with large graphic health-warning images and scary messages aimed at informing current and potential smokers about the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption. They have no colourful logos, with the brand name just displayed in small characters in a standard font.

These packs are now required by new regulations which entered into force in May 2016. There has been a one-year transitional period for the sell-through of old stock – and from May 20 2017 all tobacco products on sale in the UK must comply with the new rules.

The legislative move has been recommended to all countries by the World Health Organisation to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and eventually reduce consumption. Australia was the first country to introduce such strict packaging requirements in December 2012. France and, of course, the UK have since followed suit.

It follows significant research that shows these new standardised cigarette packs are much less appealing to consumers – and young people especially.
The industry’s legal defeats

No wonder tobacco companies have challenged the measure in the courts. They have argued that it is useless, too harsh – and is an infringement of their fundamental and intellectual property rights, especially trademarks. Yet, their claims are based on weak arguments and have been rejected by both the High Court of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal.

The tobacco industry has faced numerous courtroom defeats of late. Last year Uruguay won a landmark case against the Swiss giant Philip Morris International. The company had sued the Latin American state after it introduced two measures affecting tobacco packaging and trademarks. These were mandatory graphic health warnings covering 80% of cigarette packets (a measure very close to plain packaging) and the obligation for tobacco companies to adopt a single presentation for their brands, dropping for example the “gold” and “blue” descriptors, that could lead smokers to believe one variant was safer than another.

The fact that the courts sided with Uruguay would have been encouraging to other countries aiming to introduce controls on tobacco packaging. And even greater encouragement came recently from a World Trade Organisation ruling which deemed that the plain packaging requirements introduced by Australia as compliant with international trade and intellectual property rules – and are therefore a legitimate public health measure.

The decision has not been officially announced, but a confidential draft of the interim ruling was leaked to the media and the final decision is expected later this year. The Australian measure had been challenged at the WTO tribunal by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Honduras, countries whose economies strongly rely on the tobacco industry.

A domino effect

This is a blow to the industry. The short-term consequences of the WTO ruling – Imperial Tobacco’s shares fell more than 2% after the decision was leaked – reflects the longer-term danger that this ruling poses. It will likely convince other states to introduce plain packaging legislation without fear of violating international trade and intellectual property laws. It basically gives them a green light by removing the regulatory chilling effect that such legal action has produced on countries that wanted to follow Australia’s example.

After all, more and more countries seem interested in adopting standardised packaging. As well as France and the UK, Ireland and Norway will introduce packaging restrictions later in 2017, and Hungary in 2018. Many other states are debating similar measures, including New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Slovenia, Belgium, Singapore and Thailand.

So, a legislative trend has started which aims to restrict the ability of tobacco manufacturers to make their products appealing to consumers by using eye-catching words, logos or ornamental features on the pack. And attempts by Big Tobacco to stop it by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights are being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

Ultimately, the industry needs to accept the fact that its ability to use fancy brands, especially on packaging, may be reduced by governments for public health reasons. Also that a company’s property rights are not absolute or untouchable. Not only does it not have enough legal basis – as has now been confirmed by several courts and tribunals – but it also disregards legitimate policies adopted by democratically elected governments.

What’s keeping Indonesia, China addicted to smoking?

A World Trade Organisation ruling backing Australia’s hard line on cigarette packaging highlights a gulf between Asia and much of the rest of the world

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2094162/whats-keeping-indonesia-china-addicted-smoking

It was during a trip to Egypt in 1995 when Edison Siahaan first felt that something wasn’t quite right with his throat. Four decades had gone by since he started smoking at the age of 15. His voice had been raspy for years. Maybe this was just the dry air tickling the back of his throat.

But it wasn’t dry air and it wasn’t a tickle. It was cancer. Doctors excised a portion of his trachea leaving a hole the size of a nickel at the base of the throat. He lost his bank job because for a year following the surgery he couldn’t speak. Even now, what passes for speech makes him sound like the emperor from Star Wars only with more hissing. Now 79, Siahaan, a kindly old gent with a full head of hair, is tough to look at. “I see kids smoking all the time here,” he says, gesturing back and forth along the length of the street from his front room. “It makes me sick to think they are going to ruin their life. I point at this hole in my throat and say to them: do you want to look like this?”

Asian men already account for the lion’s share of the world’s tobacco related illnesses, yet a World Trade Organisation ruling this week that upheld tough anti-smoking rules introduced in Australia in 2012, showed that if anything, the gap in attitudes between Asia and the rest of the world may be widening.

“Tobacco in China is absolutely devastating,” says Dr Angela Pratt who helps handle external relations at the World Health Organisation’s office for the Western Pacific in Manila.

In China, roughly 300 million people smoke, according to the WHO. Most of these are men. More than half of Chinese adults are smokers and two-thirds of young Chinese men start smoking. While smoking rates are steady, the absolute number of smokers is rising in line with population growth. Chinese smokers account for 44 per cent of all the cigarettes puffed in the world. At current rates 200 million Chinese will die this century from tobacco-related illnesses, Pratt says. “That’s a huge burden. The people afflicted are often the sole income earners,” she says.

This week, the WTO ruled that Australia’s plain packaging rules, which ban branding and distinctive colouring from packs of cigarettes, were a legitimate public health measure. The ruling knocked back a complaint from Indonesia, Cuba, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, who said the rule amounted to an illegal trade barrier. As the former chief of staff to the Australian health minister who introduced the plain packaging measures, Nicola Roxon, Pratt helped develop the policy, bulletproofing it from court challenges from tobacco companies and governments.

“We were proud to be taking on plain packaging,” Pratt recalls. “But we wanted to be sure to be able to defend it.”

Together with graphic warnings and taxes that will push cigarettes up to A$40 (HK$230) per pack by 2020, the measure is credited with accelerating the fall in Australia’s smoking rate. The most recent figures show about 13 per cent of Australian adults smoke and less than five per cent of school children. A dozen countries, from Canada to Chile and Britain to Uruguay are either introducing similar rules or seriously considering them.

At the other extreme is Indonesia. The most recent figures, which date back to 2013, show 240,000 Indonesians die every year from tobacco related illnesses. Two-thirds of Indonesian men and boys, over the age of 15, smoke, according to the Ministry of Health.

Most troubling are the numbers of new young smokers throughout the archipelago, says Dr Widyastuti Soerojo, chair of the tobacco control unit at the Indonesian Public Health Association. She says some 16 million Indonesian youngsters between the ages of 10 and 19 experiment with smoking every year – a rate of about 44,000 every day.

Indonesia is among the few countries that are not signatories to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which among other things aims to curb the appeal of smoking for children.

Indonesia television and billboards feature handsome intrepid men jumping out of planes or into business meetings. Roadside kiosks individually sell clove cigarettes, known as kretek, for as little as 10 US cents each.

Governments in Jakarta and local governments in vote-rich provinces, such as Central Java and East Java, fend off calls for more curbs on smoking saying they provide badly needed jobs to rural families.

But mechanisation and growing taste for machine-made cancer sticks rather than hand-rolled types, belie that argument. Tobacco accounts for about half of one per cent of all jobs in Indonesia, according to the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. Campaigners are quick to point out the country’s richest families have tobacco to thank.

The Hartonos, Indonesia’s richest family and worth US$17 billion, own kretek maker Djarum.

Indonesian cigarette sales totaled US$16 billion in 2015. Sampoerna, which is more than 90 per cent owned by Philip Morris, is Indonesia’s most valuable company.

“The government treats tobacco like it’s a normal industry but really this is neocolonialism by tobacco companies,” Dr Soerojo says.

In China, the culprit for health advocates is the China National Tobacco Corporation, which controls more than 98 per cent of the local market. Implementation of the UN tobacco convention falls to the Ministry of Industry, which is also home to the body that owns China Tobacco. “A parallel would be, back when I was with the health ministry, meetings were chaired by a representative of Philip Morris,” Pratt said. “There’s plenty of room for conflict of interest.”

Still, there’s progress. Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, with a combined population of more than 60 million, have banned smoking in public areas. China hiked taxes on cigarettes in 2015. The move resulted in a 20 per cent jump in the retail prices of the cheapest brands. Owing to its massive market, that move alone resulted in a more than 2 per cent drop in world tobacco consumption in 2016.

In Indonesia, smoking is banned in most public spaces but enforcement peters out the further one travels from the centre of Jakarta. Indonesia introduced graphic warnings on packaging in 2012 and hiked excise taxes on cigarettes by 15 per cent in 2016. Even so, additional hikes for this year were scotched. Glimmers of light are on the horizon, says WHO’s Pratt, but plain packaging is still “a long way off”.

For Siahaan, his government’s halting go-slow approach is proof that cigarettes are insidious, and for him, more ruinous than narcotics. “At least with drugs you can get help,” he gasps. “For cigarettes, you see them everywhere.”

Cigarettes and tobacco: what are the new rules and regulations?

The new rules have been made under new European Union law called the Tobacco Products Directive.

https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/health/cigarettes-tobacco-new-rules-regulations/

Technically, the law came into force on 20 May last year, but companies were given a 12-month grace period to sell their old packs and bring in standardised packaging.

From next month, all tobacco must be packaged in drab, dark brown packs with no graphic branding.

standardised-packaging

The new packs are the same shape, size and colour, with two thirds of the front and back surfaces covered by pictorial health warnings, and written warnings on the sides.

From 21 May this year, anyone caught selling non-plain packs will face severe penalties.

Smokers will also no longer be able to buy smaller packs of cigarettes and rolling tobacco while menthols will be phased out completely by May 2020.

At the moment, rolling tobacco comes in 10g and 20g packets – but soon 30g will be the smallest size.

The ban includes some flavoured tobacco and cigarettes – including fruit, spice, herbs, alcohol, candy and vanilla.

There are also internal packaging requirements as well as rules for individual cigarette sticks. All other trademarks, logos, colour schemes and promotional images are prohibited.

Cost of cigarettes

A pack of cigarettes is now at least £8.81, which campaigners say is a key factor in making people quit smoking.

Action on Smoking and Health believe that removing the packet of ten cigarettes this means people will have to find that extra money for a packet.

“It will hit poorer and younger smokers harder who are more likely to buy smaller packs,” a spokesperson said.

Smokers’ rights group Forest said the new rules “treat adults like children and teenagers like idiots”.

New vaping laws will also come into force next month restricting sale of e-liquids and e-cigarettes.

Among the rules are: refillable tanks must have a capacity of no more than 2ml, e-liquids can not be sold in quantities greater than 10ml and e-liquid packaging must be child-resistant and tamper evident.

 

Government releases new pictorial warnings for tobacco products

Replacing the existing images, the Health Ministry has released a new set of pictorial warnings for mandatory display on packets of cigarettes, bidis, and chewing tobacco with effect from April 1 this year. Under the new rules, manufacturers will now need to display graphic pictures of throat cancer on cigarette and bidi packets and pictures of mouth cancer on chewing tobacco packets.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/apr/04/government-releases-new-pictorial-warnings-for-tobacco-products-1589510.html

According to the public notice on the Health Ministry’s website, the government notified the new health warnings on October 15, 2014 and issued a notification dated September 24, 2015 for mandatory display of new health warnings covering 85 per cent of the principal display area on all tobacco products from April 1, 2016.

“As per Rules, during the rotation period of 24 months, two images of specified health warnings as notified in the Schedule, shall be displayed on all tobacco product packages and each of the images shall appear consecutively on the package with an interregnum period of 12 months.

“Further as per notification dated March 24, 2017, all tobacco products manufactured on or after April 1, 2017 shall display the second image of specified health warning,” the notice said. It further said any person engaged directly or indirectly in production, supply, import or distribution of cigarettes or any other tobacco products shall ensure that all tobacco product packages have these specified health warnings.

“Violation of the provisions is a punishable offence with imprisonment or fine as prescribed under section 20 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003,” it said.

India is third among countries with the largest pictorial warnings on tobacco products, according to a recent report. The Health Ministry has implemented, from April 2016, large pictorial health warnings occupying 85 per cent of the principal display area of tobacco packs and on all forms of tobacco.

Graphical health warnings on cigarette packs found effective

A recently completed sample based study done in Bangladesh claims that the health warning labels describing the harmful effects of tobacco products using text and/or pictures are found to be effective.

Health warnings on cigarette packages are among the most prominent sources of information about the harms of smoking and tobacco use.

Indeed, even in high-income countries where millions of dollars are spent on anti-tobacco mass media campaigns, smokers still report getting information about the risks of smoking from cigarette packages almost as much as from television, and much more than from other sources such as print media.

Therefore, in a country such as Bangladesh, where very little information about the harms of tobacco use appears on television and other broadcast media, warning labels on tobacco packages represent an even more important opportunity for informing the public about the harms of tobacco. Given their tremendous reach and frequency of exposure, health warnings are an extremely cost-effective public health intervention compared to other tobacco prevention efforts such as paid mass media advertising – these came out of a sample-based survey.

Findings from the survey revealed, 98.1% of the respondents opined that they supported the current practice of bothside for pictorial/graphical health warnings (GHW) and 77.5% respondent informed that they thought that the current use of GHW of 50% of the cigarette pack for warnings was good enough to demotivate and reduce the use of tobacco products. Considering up to 50% of the cigarette pack, around 89% were supporting this.

The findings revealed – about 72.7% of the respondents reported that they felt very unpleasant to see the pictorial warning on the tobacco packets (74.1% in urban and 72.7% in rural areas). The survey also reported that the pictorial warning was very realistic to 65.6% of the respondents and extremely realistic to 17.0% respondent (18.8% in rural and 15.3% in urban areas).

The psychological impact of GHW on the respondents was also examined. 13.9% of the respondents were extremely worried and 61.7% were very worried to see the pictorial warning on the cigarette package.

In summary, the study found that the graphical health warnings (GHW) were realistic to provide health-related information and are very effective in creating an unpleasant feeling and sense of worriedness among the smokers to aware them regarding the harmful effects of smoking.

A good news that the study uncovered was 75.8% respondents tried to reduce or quit smoking after seeing the pictorial warning on the cigarette packet. The rate is 76.3% in rural and 75.3% in urban areas. 83.5% respondents reported that they tried to reduce or quit smoking habit to see the pictorial warning. 74.8% recommended to include
GHW in Biri, Gul and Jorda.

Moreover, 64.2% respondents recommended that government should take initiative for mass awareness and 85.5% recommended for more visual media (TV) coverage.

Calls to stub out tobacco deals

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=180992

Several legislators yesterday called on the government not to extend further concessions to the tobacco trade that is trying to further delay implementation of bigger graphic health warnings on cigarettes to the detriment of public health.

The government proposed in May 2015 to enlarge the size of health warnings to cover at least 85 percent of the packet or retail containers of cigarettes, saying the existing six graphic health warnings which cover half of packets or containers have been in use since 2007.

The Food and Health Bureau has made four concessions to meet the industry’s concerns, including using any background color to show nicotine and tar content and for the English version of the health warning to remain at 50 percent of the surface area of the lid of a drum-shaped container.

Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee told a Legislative Council health services panel yesterday that the government will also extend the adaptation period from six months to 12 months upon gazetting of the amendment order of the smoking ordinance.

Tourism-sector lawmaker Yiu Si- wing said: “The government is conceding, giving in to the tobacco sector’s pressure.”

The Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung: “Public health should come first. Especially as I have had some personal health problems, I understand the value of health.

“I understand from the grassroots that smoking is a relief for them from stress but the government should not concede anymore. It has already conceded enough.”

Peter Shiu Ka-fai, of the wholesale and retail sector, questioned whether the government would have evidence to show that bigger warnings would mean “people will stop smoking?”

Wong Ting-kwong, of the import and export sector, said he is a smoker and that bigger warnings will still affect second- and third-hand smokers as “the smoke isn’t less.”

The panel also discussed the Hong Kong Code, a voluntary code aimed at protecting breastfeeding and to impose restrictions on formula milk marketing practices that give misconceptions about the nutritional value of products for children up to 36 months old.

Chan told the legislators: “We consulted the Department of Justice and the code is not breaching the competition law as this is voluntary.”

WHO Letter to HK Government on Tobacco Control Efforts

Download (PDF, 81KB)

CUHK MPH Student Support for Graphic Health Warnings

Download (PDF, 677KB)

Slovenia adopts plain packaging

Congratulations to SFP Coalition Partners No excuse Slovenia and Slovenian Coalition for Public Health, Environment and Tobacco Control for their tireless advocacy to support this legislation in the last year.

http://www.smokefreepartnership.eu/partner-news/item/slovenia-adopts-plain-packaging

On 15 February the Slovenian Parliament adopted the draft law proposed by the government without a single vote against. Plain packaging is expected to enter into force in 2020.

Briefly, the new Slovenian Tobacco law includes:

– Plain packaging (65% coverage with health warnings and quitting information)
– Introduction of license for selling tobacco products,
– Total display and Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) ban
– Prohibition of selling tobacco products with aromas and other additives
– Prohibition of smoking in cars with a minor present
– Prohibition of smoking indoors including E-cigarettes
– Mystery shopping/test purchasing by underage,
– Measures of prevention of illicit trade

Canadian Cancer Society Support on 85% HK Health Warnings

Download (PDF, 4.84MB)