Get ready for Plain Packaging

May 31: World No-Tobacco Day

May 31 is World No-Tobacco Day and this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on governments to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products.

Plain cigarette packaging will soon be here
Plain packaging of tobacco products refers to measures that restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand or product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.

WHO says: taking away the pretty colours, logos and advertising from tobacco packaging and replacing it with truthful information about the harms of tobacco use will prevent children from starting, and help smokers quit. The tobacco packet is one of the few ways left to the industry to glamourise smoking.

Australia was the first country to introduce standardised or plain packaging in 2012 and smoking rates have fallen rapidly since. Calls to smoking cessation services increased considerably.

Smokers even said that cigarettes sold in plain packs tasted worse, even though the manufacturers confirmed that the product was the same. This shows just how powerful packaging is in conveying messages about the supposed quality and features of a brand.

Global interest in plain packaging is spreading rapidly. All cigarettes sold in Ireland, the United Kingdom and France from this May will be in standardised packaging.

Other countries, including South Africa and New Zealand, are also in the process of adopting plain packaging laws. Dr. Aaron Motsaledi, the Health Minister, views plain packaging as a crucial part of a comprehensive package of tobacco control measures.

Plain packs also have an important educational impact with their large pictorial health warnings about the dangers of tobacco use. These no-nonsense warnings truthfully convey the brutal facts. Smoking does not just kill but it can leave its victims breathless, speechless and unable to walk. Most smokers may know that smoking is bad but few know just how terrible are the consequences.

Tobacco industry reaction

The tobacco industry aggressively opposes plain packaging as well as large pictorial health warnings because it recognises that such policies will reduce sales and profits. It mounted strong legal challenges to such laws in Australia and Uruguay. Happily, in both countries the courts upheld the government’s right to protect public health by dismissing the cases.

Tobacco is uniquely dangerous

Tobacco is unique in that it is the only legal consumer product that kills the user when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer. Every year, more than 5 million people die because they use tobacco. Another 600 000 nonsmokers die from exposure to second-hand smoke. This makes tobacco one of the leading preventable causes of heart attacks, stroke, lung disease, and deaths from TB.

Smoking is estimated to kill 44 000 South Africans each year, which is more than the number of people killed on our roads or murdered combined.

For more information call:

Dr. Yussuf Saloojee, Executive Director: 011 720 3145 or 076 633 5322.