[Ip-health] Reuters: South Africa plans plain cigarette packaging by 2015: minister

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Jul 28 05:49:16 PDT 2014


http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/24/us-safrica-tobacco-idUKKBN0FT1QI20140724?irpc=932

South Africa plans plain cigarette packaging by 2015: minister

BY WENDELL ROELF

CAPE TOWN Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:29am EDT


(Reuters) - South Africa aims to force cigarette companies to sell products
in plain packets by next year, despite an ongoing World Trade Organisation
(WTO) investigation into Australia's ban on tobacco branding, the health
minister said on Thursday.

South Africa, New Zealand, France, India and Britain are all considering
adopting standardized packaging on tobacco products but the African country
hadn't previously given a time frame.

Opponents of the law, who say it is heavy-handed and an invitation to
counterfeiters, had hoped other countries would hold off from following
Australia's example pending a WTO case addressing complaints by
tobacco-producing countries.

"I am not even sure we can wait for that WTO decision. We can start making
preparations now," South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told
Reuters.

"I want it as soon as possible but realistically and most probably it would
be next year," said Motsoaledi, a former smoker who quit in his final year
of medical studies more than three decades ago.

Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab,
olive-colored packets that look more like military or prison issue, with
brands printed in small fonts.

The WTO put together a panel on May 5 to judge on a dispute between
Australia and tobacco lobbies who say the legislation is a barrier to trade
and restricts intellectual property.

The panel has six months to make its ruling but the dispute could drag on
for many more months or even years if countries appeal or disagree over the
level of compliance.

As well as its huge importance for the global tobacco industry, the case
could have implications in other sectors, as some public health advocates
see potential for plain packaging laws to extend into areas such as alcohol
and unhealthy foods.

South Africa already has bold health warnings on packaging and has banned
smoking in many public places but health experts want tougher restrictions,
including a ban on puffing in cars when traveling with children under the
age of 12 years.

"We are losing gains we've made in the last decade and it is imperative we
implement plain packaging," said Priscilla Reddy, a professor at the Human
Sciences Research Council in Cape Town.

"It is the only and obvious route to better public health, particularly
among youth," Reddy added.

The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2012 tobacco killed six
million people worldwide, 600,000 of whom were non-smokers killed by
inhaling smoke passively.

Motsoaledi said he expected a fight from the tobacco industry but remained
undaunted.

"They are going to be very vocal and kick dust and we are prepared to
fight," he said.

(Editing by Joe Brock
<http://blogs.reuters.com/search/journalist.php?edition=us&n=joe.brock&>)



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