12 April 2022, Bangkok: As per its Ministry of Health directive issued last 12 October 2021, Myanmar was set to implement standardized tobacco packaging after 180 days or by 10 April 2022, followed by a 90-day phaseout of old tobacco packaging. However, transnational, and local cigarette and cheroot producers successfully lobbied for the implementation deadline to be pushed back till 1 April 2023.
Myanmar was supposed to have been third in Asia after Thailand and Singapore among the 20 countries worldwide to have implemented standardized packaging. The new regulation requires the outer surfaces of tobacco product packages, such as boxes, cases, cartons, and others, to be presented in a standardized dull, dark brown color and to be flat, smooth, and devoid of any attractive colors, designs, or decorative elements. This measure would have enhanced the pictorial health warnings already required on 75% of the front and back surfaces of tobacco product packaging.
Standardized packaging is a global best practice in fulfillment of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which Myanmar and 180 other countries are Parties. Because good health is a core component of sustainable development, strengthening implementation of the WHO FCTC should be a key target of the Sustainable Development Goal on Health and Well-Being (SDG 3).
As part of a comprehensive strategy to denormalize and reduce tobacco use in the country, standardized packaging is cost-effective and prevents the tobacco industry from using packaging to attract and deceive consumers. Pictorial health warnings, when combined with standardized packaging, more effectively convey the dangers of tobacco use.
“Instead of postponing its implementation by 12 months, the government should have penalized tobacco companies for not complying by the 10 April deadline,” said Dr Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.
“Only the tobacco industry will profit from this bad decision, while the government and people of Myanmar will suffer more diseases, healthcare costs, deaths, and their related socio-economic burden,” added Dorotheo. Myanmar has more than eight million smokers, and tobacco kills nearly 70,000 Burmese people annually.
Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Manager, SEATCA
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- SEATCA’s Tobacco Packaging and Labelling Resource Center
- Myanmar is third Asian country requiring standardized packaging for tobacco products
- Guidelines for implementation of Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Packaging and labelling of tobacco products)
- Guidelines for implementation of Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Advertising, promotion, and sponsorship)
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 2014.