Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Anti-smoking groups push Leung on plain packets

Anti-smoking groups push Leung on plain packets

Mary Ann Benitez and Candy Chan

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Anti-tobacco lobbyists threw down the gauntlet to Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying to take the lead on plain cigarette packaging by 2015 to save lives.

The Council on Smoking and Health, along with experts and a nongovernment organization from Australia, which was the first country to mandate plain packaging, made the call on the eve of World No Tobacco Day 2012 today.

Plain packaging is the last form of “mini-billboard” advertising, a major plank in tobacco control, as Hong Kong attempts to further bring down the number of daily smokers – around 657,000 – and dissuade youngsters from taking up the habit.

With plain packaging, the brand will be displayed in standardized font and format. The pack could be colored a dull green but more research will have to be made, said World Lung Foundation senior adviser Judith Mackay.

In addition, pictorial health warnings should be expanded to at least 75 percent of the packet, from 50 percent, and a quit line and other such advice should be displayed, said council chairwoman Lisa Lau Man-man.

Mackay said: “First, our new chief executive is a non-smoker so that’s always a good start.

“Leung does not have quite the same links with big business as some of his predecessors might have had and links with Hong Kong tobacco, which his predecessors might have had.”

University of Hong Kong director of public health Lam Tai-hing said the Chinese translation of “plain packaging” has been adopted as “a total hazard warning package.”

He said Beijing will use the same translation that Hong Kong adopts.

A joint letter containing their wish- list has been submitted to Leung.

A spokesman of the Tobacco Control Concern Group, an alliance of tobacco firms, said: “I cannot see the smoking population dropping as [ the Council on Smoking and Health] suggests. It is impractical … we will not support their move.”

He added the government should be ready for possible lawsuits from tobacco companies over plain packaging.

Meanwhile, Fiona Sharkie, executive director of Australia’s Quit Victoria, said the SAR could take a leaf out of her country’s book on the choice of packaging color. “It has to be very dirty, dull and drab and shouldn’t be associated with chocolate, mustard or anything.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>