Following Australia’s example, for this year’s World No Tobacco Day on May 31 the World Health Organisation is calling on countries to “get ready for plain packaging of tobacco products”. Plain packaging refers to “measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style (plain packaging)”.
As per the WHO, the use of tobacco is a major risk factor for four major non-communicable diseases (NCDs) namely cardio-vascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease and curbing tobacco use is one of the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals to reduce NDCs.
Against all odds, Australia was the first country to successfully introduce plain packaging in 2012 and has since seen a decline in smoking.
What is plain packaging?
Plain packaging (also called standardized packaging) refers to “measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style (plain packaging)”. Plain packaging has also been described as packaging that is “black and white or two other contrasting colours, as prescribed by national authorities; nothing other than a brand name, a product name and/or manufacturer’s name, contact details and the quantity of product in the packaging, without any logos or other features apart from health warnings, tax stamps and other government-mandated information or markings; prescribed font style and size; and standardized shape, size and materials. There should be no advertising or promotion inside or attached to the package or on individual cigarettes or other tobacco products.”
The goals of plain packaging include:
- Reducing the attractiveness of tobacco products;
- Eliminating the effects of tobacco packaging as a form of advertising and promotion;
- Addressing package design techniques that may suggest that some products are less harmful than others; and
- Increasing the noticeability and effectiveness of health warnings.
Curbing Tobacco Use in UAE
Raising taxes and changing the set of gory pictures on cigarette packs are among the steps that will soon be taken by the UAE to curb tobacco use in the country.
The new set of pictorial health warnings for cigarette packets is also being developed, according to Dr Hussain Al Rand, Assistant Under-Secretary for Health Centres and Clinics at the ministry
While the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is focused on plain packaging, the UAE plans to use a second set of gory pictures in an attempt to discourage smokers.
Preventing Tobacco Use in India
Seeking the support of civil society organisatons in curbing use of tobacco, India’s Health Minister JP Nadda has requested them to adopt a group of schools and sensitise children about its ill effects as he advocated a “catch them young” approach.
On the eve of the World No Tobacco day, he said it is important to sensitise school children about the ill effects of tobacco so that they don’t even start its use.
Dr K Srinath Reddy, President, HRIDAY and Public Health Foundation of India said this year’s WNTD theme is a clarion call for all countries to strictly implement existing tobacco control measures as he sought plain packaging to deter tobacco consumption.