Tobacco industry has 9 months to comply with packaging, labelling regulations- Govt

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Following the publication of the tobacco packaging and labelling regulations on May 26, the industry now has until February 25, 2019, to comply.

This gives industry operators nine months to comply.

Attorney-At-Law, Kesaundra Alves who has been a consultant to the Ministry of Public Health on the tobacco legislation said the regulations speak to the general labelling and health warnings requirements.

Sixty per cent of the package and label of tobacco products must bear graphic pictorial health warnings provided by the Ministry of Public Health. The other forty percent is for branding. These health warnings must highlight the harmful effects of tobacco.

This, Alves said, is a strategy to deter persons from using the product. “We don’t want people to smoke, that’s the truth so we are giving them all the information. This is part of a number of measures we are implementing to fight the tobacco epidemic.”

She further explained that the information placed on the packaging by the tobacco industry must not be an advertisement nor must it be misleading. “… So, the tobacco industry will not be able to say that this is a low tar product or give the impression that one tobacco product is healthier than another; that is misleading and will not be allowed… there is no safe level of tobacco consumption.”

Essentially, the health warnings will take up sixty percent of the back and front of any package while the sides will be left for a declaration which states “smoke from this product contains extremely addictive nicotine and toxic substances such as tar and carbon monoxide. No safe level of consumption exists for this product.”

Additionally, The Tobacco Control Act of 2017 indicates that all cigarettes shall be sold in an undamaged package containing not less than twenty while smokeless tobacco products or loose tobacco shall be sold in an intact package containing no less than 20 grammes.

“That is to prevent the vendor from loosening up the packs and selling singles, without the consumer having access to these graphic images and also it has been found it is easier for persons with less disposable [income] to take a $20 from their pocket and buy a single cigarette,” Alves said.

The goal behind this strategy is to eliminate the possibility of youths being introduced to tobacco use. “It’s harder to get someone who has started smoking to stop smoking but our hope is to get especially the young people. When they attempt to buy a tobacco product and they look at the contents they will reconsider.”

The health warnings on packages will be rotated every year. Alves said “this is to ensure persons do not become de-sensitised, because they are seeing the same image over and over. Therefore, every year we will come up with a fresh set altogether.”

The tobacco industry is now required to submit samples of the products with complete packaging and labelling to the Ministry of Public Health for approval before the scheduled deadline in 2019.

Non-compliance with labelling and packaging requirements of tobacco products can result in a maximum penalty of $200,000 for businesses and a maximum penalty of $9Million for the corporate bodies in the tobacco industry.

Public sensitisation campaigns spearheaded by Ministry of Public Health and PAHO/WHO will take effect shortly. This will be done in an effort to familiarise the public with the harmful effects of tobacco use.

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