• There is nothing as relieving as taking a long puff of one’s favorite tobacco brand after a long hard day’s work, many tobacco smokers will admit. But they also know, there is nothing as bad as the lighting up, and many wish they could put to an end their nasty habit, that has major side effects including cancer.

    The World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is observed every May 31, and this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is appealing governments across the world to enact policies for plain packaging of tobacco products.

    This year’s WNTD is highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

    According to the international public health agency, plain packaging is an important demand reduction measure that reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products, restricts the use of tobacco packaging as a form of tobacco advertising and promotion, limits misleading packaging and labeling, and increases the effectiveness of health warnings.

    “Plain packaging of tobacco products refers to measures that restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colors, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard color and font style,” WHO explained in their statement.

    Will this really work?

    Although plain packaging appeal is just but a measure that needs to be taken up by policy makers, civil society and the public to ensure that their governments consider its adoption, it can work by changing people’s attitudes towards smoking.

    In 2012, Australia became the first country to enact a new law aimed at reducing the number of children who start smoking, as well as support people to quit the habit for good.

    With the new law in place, it meant that cigarette packaging could no longer contain bright colors and slick design. It had to be plain and standardized.

    Four years down the line, Australia has reported positive impacts especially among the youth (12-17-year-olds). Reports indicate that the country recorded its lowest levels of smoking in this age group between 2010 and 2013, and fewer 18-24-year-olds were smoking too.

    With the less attractive packaging, research shows that smokers tend to think that their cigarettes are lower quality and less appealing, consequently becoming easier to quit.

    Kylie Lindorff, from the Cancer Council Victoria, told Cancer Research UK that since the introduction of the standard packs, the number of people contacting a smoking quit line has increased. She added that the volume of tobacco in the Australian market fell by 11 percent.

    Other than standard packaging, governments also have to invest in other measures alongside standard packs in order to have a greater impact. This could include but not limited to anti-smoking marketing campaigns, increasing the tax on tobacco products and restricting public smoking.

    Many African nations have in the recent past introduced laws that restrict smoking. Uganda is the latest country to enforce tough new laws on smoking and tobacco sales, with smokers being required to maintain a distance of at least 50 meters away from public spaces such as hospitals, schools and taxi parks.

    With many more countries taking the initiative to enact laws on standard packaging such as the United Kingdom, France, and Ireland, the rest of the world is set to follow suit, making every day World No Tobacco Day.

    Facts about plain packaging

    Interest in plain packaging is progressing across the globe:

    • In December 2012, Australia became the first country to fully implement plain packaging.
    • In 2015, Ireland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and France all passed laws to implement plain packaging from May 2016.
    • A number of countries are in advanced stages of considering adoption of plain packaging laws.


    Image credit: thinkstockphotos