PROTECT Malaysian CHILDREN: Ban Cigarette Packs DISPLAY

18 June 2013, (Kuala Lumpur): Tobacco companies are going around laws banning cigarette promotion and circumventing rules restricting point-of-sale (POS) advertising, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) said, as it supports the move of the Malaysian Minister of Health to ban cigarette packs display at POS.

In a roundtable discussion in Kuala Lumpur, SEATCA’s Director, Bungon Ritthiphakdee said “Only comprehensive efforts by national governments can end outright violations of the tobacco industry on Tobacco Control laws. We must put an end to all tactics, delays and deception by the tobacco industry that seeks to ensure the public, including children continue to be exposed to cigarettes–a deadly product, that only causes death and disease.”

In Malaysia, despite bans on advertising and promotions at point-of-sale (POS), the tobacco industry continues to promote cigarettes by deploying attractive display panels or power-walls of numerous cigarette packs thereby making the law completely ineffective. “Children are attracted to colorful cigarette displays in stores and grocery stores, and we are concerned that tobacco control policies in Malaysia would leave a gaping loophole unless governments plug that gap by banning pack display at points-of-sale,” said Bungon Ritthiphakdee.

All over Southeast Asia, cigarettes are still strategically displayed at
point of sale, just behind the check-out counters in stores. In some countries, entire stores are branded with the colors of cigarette brands, effectively transforming stores into enormous advertising vehicles in themselves.

Asia is a major targeted region for profits for transnational tobacco companies such as PMI, BAT and JTI who continue to lobby to maintain their ability to promote their packs prominently at POS. This is a fight for Asia’s youth. Governments need to protect children and the poor by ending promotional activities as outlined in the tobacco treaty the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 13. Thirteen countries including Australia and Thailand have banned pack display at POS. This has to be the next logical step for Malaysia to adopt.

The theme for World No Tobacco Day last 31 May 2013: “Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS)” emphasizes that a comprehensive ban of all forms tobacco advertising, promotion (TAPS) and sponsorship is required under Article 13 of the FCTC. This health treaty has now been ratified by 176 countries including Malaysia.

The roundtable discussions in Kuala Lumpur, organized by SEATCA and MyWATCH, brought together civil society, government officials and academe to discuss strategies for Malaysia to stop pack displays and implement a ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship as a way to protect Malaysian children. (ENDS).

For more information, visit the SEATCA Tobacco Control Resource Center