Friday, March 25, 2016

Flip-flop Over Plain Ciggie Packaging

Malaysia had trumpeted that it had wanted to legislate to have cigarette packs in plain packaging.
But on Monday, it made an about-turn and said it will not implement it – at least, not now. It gave the excuse that it wanted to first conclude talks with the cancer stick pushers in order that the country does not violate any intellectual property laws!
What a lame excuse!
Didn’t Malaysian authorities know that Canberra had already defeated legal challenges from tobacco companies in Australian courts on its ban on branded cigarette packets?
“The message to the rest of the world is big tobacco can be taken on and beaten,” said Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon – whose father, a smoker, had died of cancer when she was ten.
“Without brave governments willing to take the fight up to big tobacco, they'd still have us believing that tobacco is neither harmful nor addictive.”
Sure, Australia still faces a challenge over plain packaging at the World Trade Organization, which is hearing complaints made by Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Cuba, which claim it violates WTO agreements by creating an unnecessary barrier to trade and impeding the use of trademarks.
But let’s not forget that the ‘plain packaging’ ruling is a legitimate public health measure that is meant to discourage impressionable people from taking up smoking.
The primary impetus for plain packaging has been acres of tobacco industry internal documents and unabashed advertising in industry trade magazines highlighting the importance of the pack as the frontline of tobacco promotion, particularly in an era when tobacco advertising bans are growing exponentially.
A 1985 industry document had, in fact, explained: “If you smoke, a cigarette pack is one of the few things you use regularly that makes a statement about you. A cigarette pack is the only thing you take out of your pocket 20 times a day and lay out for everyone to see. That’s a lot different than buying your soap powder in generic packaging.”
And a 1999 article in World Tobacco (vol. 170, p 16) advised: “if your brand can no longer shout from billboards, let alone from the cinema screen or the pages of a glossy magazine… it can at least court smokers from the retailer’s shelf, or from wherever it is placed by those already wed to it”.
A cover story of the trade magazine Tobacco Journal International spelled it out even more clearly in 2008: “Plain packaging can kill your business.”
Plain packaging sends out a clear message that cancer sticks are exceptionally dangerous. The finely-crafted elegance of a cigarette box should never be allowed to sit alongside confectionary and other edibles in a retail outlet.
Cigarettes kill, slowly but surely!
On Thursday, I went to the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation, which is located at Persiaran Tebar Layar, Seksyen U8 in Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam in Selangor for the MISI Toastmasters meeting. At the invitation of Area C1 Director, KM Srinivas.

I was the General Evaluator and admittedly, it was an interesting meeting.


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