Health Ministry hits pause on plain tobacco packaging plan

21 March, 2016
By Mayuri Mei Lin
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KUALA LUMPUR, — Cigarette packs will be plainly packaged in future, but the Health Ministry said today it will not announce an implementation date until it has concluded talks with tobacco companies on intellectual property rights.

Its minister Datuk S. Subramaniam told the Dewan Rakyat that until Putrajaya can ensure that it does not violate any intellectual property laws, it will not require tobacco companies to switch out the existing brand-centric packaging with a plain one.

“About plain packaging, the Health ministry, through our commitment to the FCTC, we want to continue in the direction of plain packaging,” he said, referring to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that are a set of international guidelines on how tobacco should be packaged and labelled.

“This is being discussed so that the efforts of the government, for the health of the public, will not be seen by the industry as an infringement on their intellectual property rights and after this issue can be resolved, the government will continue with our efforts to carry that out,” he added.

The Health Ministry told Malay Mail Online last month that Malaysia was planning to implement plain packaging for tobacco products, where colours and fonts would be standardised to reduce brand recognition.

According to plain packaging laws in Australia that were introduced in December 2012, tobacco company logos on cigarette packets are outlawed and the packets are a dull brown colour dominated by large graphic images of smoking-related diseases, with the brand name in standardised font.

Tobacco companies, however, have fervently opposed the idea, claiming that the move will only give rise to the sale of illicit cigarettes.