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EU urged to adopt plain packaging on tobacco

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by Cancer Research UK | News

31 May 2011

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On World No Tobacco Day today (Tuesday) Cancer Research UK has renewed its call for the European Union (EU) to adopt standardised, plain packaging with graphic pictures of health warnings on all tobacco products.

A new report being presented in Brussels shows the importance of stopping tobacco being marketed via its packaging. The report provides an overview of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – the focus of World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) 2011 – which is considered the best tool to help achieve this.

The FCTC is the world’s first international public health treaty. It is aimed at reducing the devastating impact of tobacco. The Treaty is legally binding and has been ratified by more than 170 countries including the EU.

The briefing – titled “Spotlight on the FCTC” – highlights that tobacco packaging can be used by governments to communicate the dangers of tobacco use rather than being used as a marketing tool by the tobacco industry.

Hard-hitting and graphic pictures of the health effects of smoking placed on the front and back of packets and ensuring all packaging has identical colouring and design would achieve both these goals.

The report also reveals the evidence that plain packaging helps change attitudes to smoking, the high level of public support for the measure, as well as dispelling the myth that this will cost jobs or a loss of retail income.

Many countries are moving forward with new tobacco packaging and labelling plans.

The Australian government has announced that all tobacco must be sold in plain packaging from July 1, 2012 and that graphic health warnings will cover 75 per cent of the front and 90 per cent of the back of packs.

The UK government has announced it will be running a public consultation on the future of tobacco packaging which is expected to begin late 2011.

Alongside the release of the report, the WHO will also be presenting the prestigious WNTD Award to the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the Smoke Free Partnership (SFP) and anti-tobacco campaigner, Fiona Godfrey. The award recognizes their international achievements in fighting the global tobacco epidemic and the promotion of tobacco control initiatives and policies.

They are awarded to individuals and institutions for long-term commitment and outstanding contribution in research, advocacy, health promotion, capacity building and other activities that promote and enforce tobacco control.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “Tobacco remains the single greatest challenge to public health. On World No Tobacco Day it’s important to remember that this year alone, more than five million people worldwide will die from a tobacco-related disease. The importance of continuing efforts to reduce smoking rates can’t be overestimated. The next vital step in preventing more lives being lost to tobacco is to wrap tobacco in plain packaging. We know from research that this helps change attitudes to cigarettes.

“Also, we congratulate ASH, the Smoke Free Partnership and Fiona on their awards. Having worked with them, we believe they should be extremely proud of their work to help prevent another generation becoming addicted to such a lethal product.”


For more information contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.