The World No Tobacco Day is observed on May 31 every year, and this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for governments across the world to enact policies for plain packaging of tobacco products. New Zealand, which aims to be a smoke-free nation by 2025, said Tuesday it would introduce plain packaging, a week after it announced higher taxes to be imposed on tobacco.
WHO’s slogan for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is “Get ready for plain packaging” and in a statement released Tuesday, it said: “Plain packaging is an important demand reduction measure that reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products, restricts use of tobacco packaging as a form of tobacco advertising and promotion, limits misleading packaging and labelling, and increases the effectiveness of health warnings. Plain packaging of tobacco products refers to measures that restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.”
Australia was the first country in the world to fully implement plain packaging, a decision from December 2012 that was challenged by Philip Morris International. The maker of brands such as Marlboro and L&M lost the case in December 2015, and other countries — the United Kingdom, France and Ireland — passed similar laws in early 2016. The highest court of the European Union also ruled, earlier this month, in favor of regulations that give its member states the option of implementing plain packaging for tobacco products. Several other countries around the world are discussing legislation along such lines as well.
New Zealand had first announced a proposal for plain packaging in 2013, and on Tuesday, its Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said the country would impose a ban on attractive packaging soon. There would be a two-month consultation period, following which recommendations for implementing the ban would be sent to the government.
“Twelve New Zealanders die prematurely every day from smoking-related illnesses — each of these deaths is preventable,” Lotu-Iiga said. Referring to the legal efforts by the tobacco industry to block such actions by governments, he added: “They may well take a case against the government, but the advice we have been getting over time now has been that the risks of them being successful ... is reducing.”
That standardized and plain packaging works in decreasing the appeal of tobacco products is agreed to by various organizations. In a statement to International Business Times, Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that “global efforts to fight tobacco use are getting a critical boost from an innovative and fast-spreading new strategy — laws requiring that cigarettes and other tobacco products be sold in plain packaging, without logos and other colorful branding that increase the appeal of these deadly and addictive products to youth.”
According to WHO, about 6 million people die every year from tobacco-related illnesses. About 5 million die from direct tobacco use, and more than 600,000 deaths are caused by second-hand smoke.