Future looks plain

Singapore is planning to impose plain – standardized – packaging on all tobacco products, according to a Channel NewsAsia story citing an announcement by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The MOH said the proposed measures would apply to all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, bidis, ang hoon (loose tobacco leaves) and other roll-your-own tobacco products.
The ministry intends to table the necessary amendments to current laws early next year.
If enacted, the new measures are expected to take effect from 2020.
A transition period, starting when manufacturers must begin producing standardized packs and ending when retailers must be selling only products in standardized packs, will be provided to allow a sell-through of old stock and to ease the implementation burden on the tobacco industry, the MOH said.
‘Tobacco use is a major cause of ill-health and death in Singapore,’ the MOH said in a press note.
‘More than 2,000 Singaporeans die prematurely from smoking-related diseases annually.
‘Daily smoking prevalence amongst Singaporeans has been fluctuating since 2004, with no clear pattern of sustained decline.’
Under the proposal, all logos, all colors but one, brand images and promotional information would be removed from the tobacco-product packs.
Packs would have to use a standard color in a matt finish.
Brand names and product names would be allowed, but only in a standard color and font.
‘Tobacco products must also display mandatory graphic health warning covering at least 75 percent of the packet’s surface, up from the current 50 percent,’ the NewsAsia story reported.
Much of this was foreshadowed earlier this year when the MOH said it would be conducting a public consultation on its Standardized Packaging Proposal from February 5 to March 16.
In its statement, the ministry said Singapore’s smoking rate had fallen from 23 percent to 19 percent between 1977 and 1984, and then to 12.6 percent in 2004.
But it said the rate of decline had slowed in recent years.
‘The smoking rates have been fluctuating between 12 percent and 14 percent in the last 10 years, with no clear pattern of continuous decline,” said the ministry.
‘A particular concern is the fact that there remains a sizable proportion of men (more than one in 5) who smoke daily.’
The ministry said that it was the government’s preliminary assessment that the implementation of the Standardized Packaging Proposal would, with other existing and future tobacco control measures, ‘constitute a significant step towards Singapore becoming a tobacco-free society’.