On World No Tobacco Day, WHO calls for plain packaging

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To encourage abstinence from tobacco and draw attention towards the negative health effects of its consumption May 31 is marked as World No Tobacco Day each year. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has made “Get Ready For Plain Packaging” the slogan to observe the day calling for strict enactment of policies for plain or standardized packaging of tobacco products worldwide. In a tweet posted from its official handle, WHO said that plain packaging of tobacco products can save lives by reducing demand.

Plain or generic packaging for tobacco products restricts use of colours, images, corporate logos and trademarks other than the brand name in a mandated size, font and place on the pack besides health warnings, toxic constituents and tax-paid stamps.

According to data provided by the WHO, 6 million people die each year because of tobacco consumption, both primary and secondary. The WHO urged to ‘reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products, prevent advertising and promotion, limit misleading packaging and enhance health warnings.’

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On the occasion, New Zealand announced that it would introduce plain packaging, a week after it announced the decision to impose higher taxes on tobacco. On Tuesday, New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said the country would impose a ban on attractive packaging soon. There would be a two-month consultation period, following which recommendations for implementing the ban would be sent to the government. New Zealand aims to become a smoke-free nation by 2025.

Australia was the first country in the world to fully implement plain packaging. But the decision was challenged by tobacco company Philip Morris International in December 2012. Australia won the international legal battle with Philip Morris over plain packaging in December 2015. Other brands including tobacco giants Marlboro and L&M also lost their respective cases in December 2015. Following this, other countries – the UK, France and Ireland, went ahead with the policy and passed laws regarding plain packaging in 2016.

Numerous other countries, including Canada, Singapore, Belgium and South Africa have announced plans to follow suit, according to data from the Canadian Cancer Council.