Plain packaging meetings in Geneva to discuss legal challenges, policy design and implementation

Geneva, Switzerland
5 October 2017

The Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and WHO Prevention of Non Comunicable Diseases Department (WHO PND) have jointly organized two meetings over several days to discuss plain packaging of tobacco products and the legal challenges concerning plain packaging.

Plain packaging, also called standardized packaging, is an important tool that addresses two different WHO FCTC articles: Art 11 related to tobacco packaging and labelling of tobacco products and graphic health warnings and Art 13 related to ban on advertising promotion and sponsorship. Its implementation may increase the noticeability and effectiveness of health warnings and messages, prevent the package from detracting attention from them, and address industry package design techniques that may suggest that some products are less harmful than others. It also avoids the advertising power of the tobacco pack.

Plain package should always be part of a comprehensive tobacco control plan which includes complete advertising ban.

Since its full implementation by Australia in 2012, plain packaging has been highly discussed among tobacco control professionals and has even become a topical media issue. It has not been an easy process for Australia having to defend itself from the tobacco industry which intends to gain time and discourage other Parties from advancing in this direction.

Nevertheless, the first country to implement plain packaging has shown encouraging results that lead the way to other countries. Indeed France and the United Kingdom recently introduced plain packaging in their legislation and others such as Norway, New Zealand, Ireland, Hungary and Slovenia are in the process of implementing it.

On the other hand, low and middle income countries are making significant progress on plain packaging regulation. The Convention Secretariat is very supportive of this approach and is encouraging other Parties to follow the same path.