SHARE

“Loopholes exist when it comes to measures to effectively control the tobacco industry’s promotion of their products. That’s why a stronger initiative, such as introducing plain packaging should be considered now,” said Kerstin Schotte, who was in Seoul for a global forum on tobacco control hosted by the Korea Health Promotion Institute, last Friday.

Smoking rates plummeted after the introduction of graphic warnings

The WHO officer said that the organization considers the tobacco industry its enemy and stressed on the importance of taking the step to implement a regulation requiring plain packaging.
Earlier this year following the implementation of graphic warnings on cigarette packets, smoking-cessation clinics all across South Korea reported witnessing a two-fold increase of visitors, from 26,320 smokers last year to 51,450 as of this January 2017.

Additionally the number of calls received on the local smoking-cessation consultation line, have also increased significantly, from 330 in December 2016, to 587 in January 2017, and an astounding 1,214 only in first two weeks of February. Most importantly 80 percent of those who called to seek assistance, said that the horrific images were the catalyst behind their call.

“Measures that the Korean government has been publishing over the past decade are not weak. But it could become stronger, as there is so much that the government can do, such as put stronger health warnings on the cigarette packs, ad regulations, and tax hike measures,” said Schotte. She added that the organization considers the tobacco industry its enemy and stressed on the importance of taking the step to implement a regulation requiring plain packaging.

Australia was the first country to impose plain packaging

The tobacco industry has been fighting back these regulations by claiming that they are ineffective and against business fundamentals.
In Australia, cool cigarette logos on packets have been replaced by plain packaging and graphic warnings from as far back as 2012. It was the first country that adopted this strategy and now many others are following suit.

In fact, data from the Australian Secondary Student’s Alcohol and Drug Survey released earlier this year, showed that from 2011 to 2014 the number of 12 to 17 year-old students who had never smoked increased from 77.4% to 80.5%. Additionally smoking rates for people aged 14 and above dropped from 15.1% to 12.8% between 2010-13, which resulted in 200,000 less smokers in this group.

A successful strategy catching on

Being aware that plain packaging is lowering cigarette sales, the tobacco industry has been fighting back these regulations by claiming that they are ineffective and against business fundamentals (brand identities). However they are not winning this battle. The list of countries besides the aforementioned that have either implemented or are thinking of implementing this regulation include Ireland, Scotland, France, Hungary, New Zealand, Norway, Chile and Singapore.

Read Further: The Korea Herald