Myanmar Bows to Industry, Postpones Life-Saving Standardized Tobacco Packaging for Third Time

21 December 2023, Bangkok: Myanmar was poised to be the third country in Asia after Thailand and Singapore to implement standardized tobacco packaging, but the government has once again succumbed to tobacco industry pressure and delayed its implementation for a third time, giving the industry till 31 December 2024. 

The Ministry of Health’s initial order gave the tobacco industry 180 days (till 10 April 2022) to comply with standardized packaging, followed by a 90-day phaseout of old packaging. This compliance deadline was first postponed to 1 January 2023, then to 31 December 2023. This third extension gives the tobacco industry a total of 38 months to comply with the law.

Myanmar has over eight million smokers, and tobacco-caused illnesses kill 70,000 Burmese each year. Myanmar’s annual healthcare costs for tobacco-caused diseases is estimated at MMK 2.62 trillion (USD 1.92 billion).

Standardized packaging, first implemented in Australia in 2012, is part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy to discourage and reduce tobacco use. The regulation mandates that outer surfaces of tobacco product packages be printed in a standardized dull, dark brown color and prohibits any attractive colors, designs, or decorative elements that would make packages more appealing to consumers, particularly the youth. 

This evidence-based measure would have complemented the pictorial health warnings which Myanmar requires to be printed on 75% of the front and back surfaces of tobacco product packages to convey the dangers of tobacco products.

“Tobacco companies can easily print new package designs in just a few months. 38 months is an unreasonably long time. Instead of bowing again to the tobacco industry, the Myanmar government should have penalized it for non-compliance with the law. This third extension again places the interests of the  tobacco industry above the welfare of the people of Myanmar, who continue to be victims of its deadly products,” said Dr Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. 

Myanmar, along with 182 countries, is a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global health treaty that provides guidelines for the implementation of standardized packaging  and pictorial health warnings (Article 11). To date, 25 countries have adopted standardized packaging, at least 15 other countries and territories are moving forward with this measure.


Contact Information: 

Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Manager, SEATCA 
Email: val@seatca.org
Mobile: +63917312460

Relevant Links:

  1. SEATCA’s  Tobacco  Packaging  and  Labeling  Resource  Center

  2. Myanmar government bows to industry pressure, delays implementation of standardized tobacco packaging by 12 months

  3. WHO FCTC Guidelines for Article 11: Packaging and Labeling of Tobacco Products

About SEATCA

SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.

 

 

 

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