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World Medical Association supports growing moves for plain tobacco packaging

The World Medical Association has supported the increasing number of countries planning to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, including Australia and France. This week it joined the Norwegian Medical Association in supporting proposals to introduce plain packaging in Norway.

The WMA, in Oslo this week for its 200th Council meeting, was responding to a public consultation by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services suggesting that all tobacco products sold in Norway should have standardized packaging. The goal is to prevent tobacco use among children and young people. The consultation also discusses the possibility of stopping the influence of the tobacco industry on tobacco policy.

Dr. Xavier Deau, President of the WMA, said: ‘The WMA strongly supports this proposal for plain packaging. Four years ago we called on all national governments to follow the example of the Australian Government in introducing plain packaging to break the brand recognition and smoking cycle. We also deplored the legal moves being taken by the tobacco industry to oppose this.

Now we have evidence from Australia that plain packaging does lead to a reduction in the take up of cigarettes and tobacco.’

WMA policy declares that cigarettes are a serious threat to the life and health of individuals who use them and a considerable cost to the health care services of every country. It says that those who smoke predominantly start to do so while adolescents and that there is a proven link between brand recognition and likelihood of starting to smoke. And it adds that brand recognition is strongly linked to cigarette packaging and that plain packaging reduces the impact of branding, promotion and marketing of cigarettes.

Dr. Hege Gjessing, President of the Norwegian Medical association, said: ‘I welcome the WMA’s support. Tobacco is a serious threat to people’s health. The Norwegian Medical Association has a long history of supporting restrictions on tobacco. We supported the ban on tobacco advertising in 1973, and then we supported the ban on smoking in aeroplanes and the ban on smoking in restaurants.’

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