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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/21/21

Prioritising tobacco control amidst crisis, Myanmar adopts plain packaging

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Plain packaging ensures health messages are prominently visible and industry is not able to use the packs for deceptive advertising
Plain packaging ensures health messages are prominently visible and industry is not able to use the packs for deceptive advertising
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Myanmar has adopted standardised packaging (or plain packaging) of all tobacco products. Plain packaging is among the scientifically-backed tobacco control measures that are also enshrined in the global tobacco treaty (formally called the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or WHO FCTC). Over 180 countries will meet next month at the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC.

"21 countries are at different stages of implementing plain packaging of tobacco products in the world. Myanmar's leadership on tobacco control should spur and catalyse many more nations to follow suit on adoption of plain packaging," hopes Dr Tara Singh Bam, Asia Pacific Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and Board Director of Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT) in Singapore. Australia, France, England, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Thailand, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Turkey, Israel, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, Netherlands, Hungary and now Myanmar are some of those nations where plain-packaging implementation is at different levels.

Why plain packaging of tobacco products?

As tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is getting banned in more countries than ever before worldwide, the tobacco industry is more heavily dependent on utilising the tobacco packs to reach out to its existing and potential "new customers" (read "children and young people" as majority of tobacco use begins before the age of 18). Even if tobacco advertising, promotion and marketing is banned, the industry connives to dupe, deceive and lure our children and young people by packaging its deadly-disease-causing products in such a cunning way (which also distracts attention from health warnings). Existing users carry tobacco products with them so unknowingly become mobile displays for tobacco industry.

That is why plain packaging yields strong public-health gains. Plain packaging rips apart the packs from marketing and promotion content of the tobacco industry, leaving behind strong health warnings, which become more prominently visible. "Tobacco packaging is a mobile billboard promoting consumption of tobacco products. With the advertising of tobacco increasingly banned in more and more forms throughout the world, the pack has fast become the most important promotional vehicle for reaching potential and current smokers. Plain packaging strips away the decoration, gloss and misleading elements of tobacco packaging," said Dr Tara Singh Bam.

Plain packaging and larger pictorial health warnings help reveal the grim reality of tobacco products. Plain packaging comprises measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style. It aims to:

- reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products;

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