Bangkok, 16 November 2018: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) applauds Thailand for its continued leadership in tobacco control in Asia as it becomes the first country in the region to require standardized packaging of cigarettes.
On 14 November 2018, the National Committee on Tobacco Control approved the Ministry of Health Regulation that requires all cigarette products to be sold in drab brown colored packs, free of any logos or images with 85 percent pictorial health warnings on both sides of the pack. The regulation will be gazetted soon and implementation will be in 270 days. With this move, tobacco brand names can only be printed in a standardized font type, size, color, and location.
“SEATCA extends our heartiest congratulations to Thailand for this milestone and for aligning itself to the global standard in packaging tobacco products. Standardized packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products, eliminates tobacco packaging as a form of advertising, and increases the noticeability and effectiveness of pictorial health warnings. This also reduces the tobacco industry’s ability to market to young people who have not started using tobacco, supports adult tobacco users who want to quit, and helps prevent ex-users from relapsing,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of SEATCA.
This new regulation is just one of several important measures included in the Tobacco Products Control Act which was passed in March 2017 by the Thai National Legislative Assembly. Other important measures in the law include the ban on tobacco-related Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, ban on single stick sales, requiring the industry to report marketing activities, and increased penalty fee for smoking in prohibited areas from THB 2,000 to THB 5,000.
Earlier this month, Singapore announced its plan to introduce standardized packaging in 2019 once amendments to its Tobacco Control of Advertisements and Sale Act are passed. In 2012, Australia was the first country in the world to mandate plain packaging. Since then, eight other countries, namely, France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Uruguay, Slovenia, and Mauritius have also introduced plain packaging laws, and at least 16 other jurisdictions are formally considering the same.
Standardized packaging works. A national survey measuring Australian smokers’ responses one year post-implementation found that more adult smokers noticed graphic health warnings and attributed their motivation to quit to the warnings. A year after implementation, another study showed sustained reduction in visible smoking. The sustained reduction suggests that plain packaging may be changing norms about smoking in public.
Acknowledging the effectiveness of plain packaging to reduce smoking, the tobacco industry responded by suing Australia, France, the UK, and the EU, but failed in all its legal challenges. Additionally, in June this year, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute panel upheld Australia’s plain packaging law as being consistent with international trade and intellectual property laws.
“The tobacco industry has a history of using the threat of legal challenges to intimidate governments, particularly in low and middle-income countries that have limited resources to fight the industry in court, but these latest announcements by Thailand and Singapore and the recent WTO ruling in favor of Australia should encourage more countries to adopt and implement this life-saving measure contained in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 11 (Packaging and labelling) and 13 (Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship) Guidelines,” said Dorotheo.
“SEATCA is very delighted with this important development in the the history of tobacco control in Asia and we encourage Thailand to stay strong in the compliance and implementation of this law. This new law will not only help the more than 10 million current smokers to quit but more importantly stop children from being addicted to tobacco and protect the Thai people from being exposed to secondhand smoke. Who will be next in Asia to follow Thailand and Singapore’s strategic action to protect public health?” asked Dorotheo.
- Standardized or Plain Packaging: Scientific Evidence – https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/global/pdfs/en/plain_packaging_evidence_en.pdf
- Plain packaging of tobacco products: evidence, design and implementation – http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/207478/9789241565226_eng.pdf?sequence=1
- The Tobacco Control Atlas: ASEAN Region, Fourth Edition – https://seatca.org/dmdocuments/SEATCA Tobacco Control Atlas ASEAN Region 4th Ed Sept 2018.pdf
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements 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.