Graphic pack­age warn­ings on six-month hia­tus

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - HTIKE NANDA WIN news­room@mm­times.com

In re­sponse to a re­quest from to­bacco com­pa­nies, the Min­istry of Health has ag­greed to a six-month re­prieve on reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing to­bacco prod­ucts to come with graphic warn­ings.

AF­TER lob­by­ing from to­bacco com­pa­nies, a six-month re­prieve has been granted on a reg­u­la­tion re­quir­ing cig­a­rette pack­ages to carry graphic health warn­ings, ac­cord­ing to a di­rec­tive from the Min­istry of Health and Sport.

In Fe­bru­ary, the govern­ment an­nounced that new reg­u­la­tions would go into ef­fect on Septem­ber 1, re­quir­ing that health warn­ings and graphic pho­tos il­lus­trat­ing the dan­gers of to­bacco use must ap­pear on all brands of cig­a­rette and other to­bacco prod­ucts man­u­fac­tured in Myan­mar.

But on Septem­ber 28, Dr Mya Lay Nwee, deputy di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health in Nay Pyi Taw, told The Myan­mar Times that the rules would not go into ef­fect un­til Fe­bru­ary 2017.

“To­bacco com­pa­nies made a re­quest to the min­istry that the new laws not be ap­plied to prod­ucts which had reached the mar­ket be­fore Septem­ber 1. There­fore, the min­is­ter for health and sport has granted the to­bacco com­pa­nies an amnesty pe­riod of six months, dur­ing which they can re­trieve prod­ucts that do not con­tain the proper warn­ing la­bels from the mar­ket,” said Dr Mya Lay Nwee.

“The [new] law will still ap­ply to prod­ucts man­u­fac­tured af­ter Septem­ber 1 and any­one who breaks the law fol­low­ing the amnesty pe­riod will be pun­ished in ac­cor­dance with the leg­is­la­tion,” she added.

One con­cern that has been raised by the new to­bacco pack­ag­ing edict is that many re­tail­ers are un­aware that they could face pun­ish­ment if they sell in­cor­rectly pack­aged prod­ucts.

“We did not know about the new law,” said Daw San, a re­tailer at the cor­ner of 39th Street and Bo­gyoke Aung San Road. “To­bacco com­pa­nies have told us to sell our [im­prop­erly pack­aged] stock be­fore the end of the six-month pe­riod and that they will then take back any un­sold stock.”

Daw San’s ex­pe­ri­ence sug­gests that the govern­ment’s new pack­ag­ing reg­u­la­tions may achieve its de­sired out­come, low­er­ing the smok­ing rate.

“The de­mand for brands with graphic stick­ers on them has de­creased since they started la­belling the pack­ets in this way. Be­fore, they were best sell­ers,” she said.

“Buy­ers said the [graphic warn­ing] stick­ers were a dis­grace and changed brands to pack­ages which did not have them,” she added.

Of the nearly 50 brands of cig­a­rettes on the mar­ket, only two – Red Ruby and Win­ston – have adopted the graphic warn­ings so far. None of the more than 100 brands of tra­di­tional cig­a­rettes or other to­bacco prod­ucts has adopted the graphic warn­ing la­bels at this point.

Once the new law is in full ef­fect, any­one in­volved in the pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion or sale of to­bacco prod­ucts that do not con­tain a graphic warn­ing la­bel could be sub­ject to a fine of be­tween K10,000 (US$7.95) and K30,000 for a first of­fence.

Sub­se­quent of­fences are to be pun­ished with heav­ier fines and even pos­si­ble im­pris­on­ment un­der the Con­trol of Smok­ing and Con­sump­tion of To­bacco Prod­uct Law.

Photo: Thiri Lu

A cig­a­rette ven­dor in Yan­gon holds up pack­ages with pic­toral warn­ing la­bels in Septem­ber 2015.

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