On 29 April 2010 the Australian government announced that, cigarettes in the country would be sold in plain packages by 2012. Save for graphic health warnings, the new regulations will remove logos, company colors and any other flourishes that traditionally make tobacco products more attractive and marketable.
“We congratulate Australia for taking this bold step, that is a world first, and it is progressive and aggressive to curb tobacco use,” said Bungon Ritthipakdee, director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). “This is the kind of regulation and action that governments of Southeast Asia should also pursue.”
Tobacco control advocates in Southeast Asia are urging the region’s governments to follow the lead of Australia in the historic, groundbreaking move that would strip all tobacco packs of attractive marketing appeal.
In compliance of the WHO tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), currently, four countries in the region have implemented best practices in pack warnings by applying graphic warnings on cigarette packs for several years now: Singapore (2004), Thailand(2005), Brunei(2008) and Malaysia(2009). According to the requirements of the WHO FCTC, these warnings, as stated in Article 11, should be rotational, which means countries will have to review their warnings anyway. We believe these countries are poised to follow Australia’s lead.
The FCTC encourages Parties to take measures that are more stringent than that outlined in the treaty and its related guidelines. The guidelines states that “parties should consider adopting measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in standard colour and font style (plain packaging).” Plain packaging is a natural step in this direction.
It is necessary for countries in Southeast Asia, home to almost 126 million adult smokers, accounting for 10 percent of global figures, to continue pursuing stronger and more effective laws. The region has among the highest rates of male smoking, and the fastest smoking uptake among youth and women.