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Canadian Cancer Society identifies global progress in plain tobacco packaging implementations

#Canadian Cancer Society identifies global progress in plain tobacco packaging implementations

07 Feb 2024 — An international report released yesterday by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) uncovered ongoing advancements in plain tobacco packaging worldwide. Currently, 42 countries and territories are moving ahead with plain packaging, with 25 adopting the measure, three having it in practice and 14 in the implementation process.

The CCS report, titled “Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report,” demonstrates global progress on plain packaging, ranks 211 countries and territories on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages and lists the 138 countries and territories that require graphic picture warnings.

The report also features the new Canadian requirement for a warning on every cigarette. This world precedent-setting measure will start to appear on cigarettes in Canada by April 2024. Australia is in the process of becoming the second country to adopt the measure.

Plain packaging – global progress
Overall, the report finds there has been “tremendous” progress internationally in implementing package health warnings, with many countries increasing warning size and requiring picture warnings.

Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at CCS, says there is a strong global trend for countries to implement plain packaging.

Person holding burning cigarette in hand.Plain tobacco packaging and graphic images aim at limiting smoking populations and reducing cancer rates.“Australia was the first country to implement plain packaging in 2012, followed by France and the UK in 2016, and now more countries are implementing the measure. These developments are very encouraging as plain packaging is a key measure to protect youth and reduce tobacco use.”

Twenty-five countries and territories have adopted plain packaging, up from nine countries in 2018 and 21 countries in 2021.

No more promotion
Guidelines under the international tobacco treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, recommend that countries consider implementing plain packaging.

Plain packaging includes health warnings on packages and prohibits tobacco company branding such as colors, logos and design elements. It also requires the brand name to be a standard font size, style and location on the package and the brand portion of each package to be the same color, such as an “unattractive” brown.

Furthermore, the package format is standardized. Plain packaging regulations end packaging being used for product promotion, increase the effectiveness of package warnings, curb package deception and decrease tobacco use.

More graphic pictures on packs
The report reveals an increase from 117 in 2018 and 134 in 2021 countries requiring graphic picture warnings, representing 66.5% of the world’s population. Canada became the first country worldwide to require picture health warnings in 2001.

“There is continuing progress for countries to use graphic pictures on cigarette packages to show the lethal health effects of smoking,” says Cunningham.

“It is extremely positive for global public health that more than 130 countries and territories have required picture health warnings and have increased warning size and that many are moving toward plain packaging. The international trend will reduce global tobacco industry sales and will save lives lost to cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.”

The report finds that 127 countries and territories have required warnings to cover at least 50% of the package front and back (on average), up from 107 in 2018 and 24 in 2008. There are now 76 countries and territories with a size of at least 65% (on average) of the package front and back and 11 with at least 85%.

By Natalie Schwertheim

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