Plain packaging pivotal for tobacco products: WHO

Geneva, May 31 (IANS) As World No Tobacco Day is marked on Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted the benefits of introducing plain packaging on tobacco products, a measure which saves lives by reducing consumer demand.

“Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products. It kills the glamour, which is appropriate for a product that kills people,” said WHO Director General Margaret Chan in a statement.

“It restricts tobacco advertising and promotion. It limits misleading packaging and labelling. And it increases the effectiveness of health warnings,” Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying.

To date, Australia is the only country to have fully implemented plain packaging. France and Britain have recently started implementation while Ireland is preparing to introduce the reform.

A number of other countries are also exploring the option whose positive effects on smoking trends have been documented in Australia.

According to figures, the introduction of plain packaging in the country led to an additional 0.55 percentage point fall in smoking prevalence among those aged 14 and above between 2012 and 2015.

This is equivalent to over 108,000 people quitting, not relapsing or not starting to smoke during the period, WHO explained.

Plain packaging works by reducing the intrinsic appeal of tobacco products by restricting or prohibiting logos, colours, brand images and promotional information.

Recommended by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat, it is integral to a holistic approach to tobacco control that includes health warnings and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The tobacco industry has fought against such reforms by carrying out misinformation campaigns to block plain packaging, Director of WHO’s Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases Douglas Bettcher explained.

“It is encouraging to see more and more countries defy the industry’s tactics and implement plain packaging to reduce demand for tobacco products and put the health of their populations first,” he said.

According to WHO, almost six million people die every year because of tobacco products.



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