Proposal to introduce standardised packaging and enlarged graphic health warnings for tobacco products as part of ongoing efforts for a tobacco-free Singapore

1. As part of ongoing efforts to promote healthy living and discourage tobacco consumption, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will introduce standardised packaging with enlarged graphic health warnings (collectively, the SP Proposal) and to apply the SP Proposal to all tobacco products sold in Singapore.

2. The move follows an extensive process of reviewing and evaluating the available international and local studies, research and evidence on the SP Proposal, as well as several rounds of public consultations.

3. Tobacco use is a major cause of ill-health and death in Singapore. More than 2,000 Singaporeans die prematurely from smoking-related diseases annually. Daily smoking prevalence amongst Singaporeans has been fluctuating since 2004, with no clear pattern of sustained decline. Of particular concern, there remains a sizable proportion of adult men (more than one in five) who smoke daily. This is higher than the male smoking rates in 13 OECD countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

4. More needs to be done to achieve sustained declines in the overall smoking rates and in particular, male smoking rate. When introduced, the SP Proposal will form part of a comprehensive suite of tobacco control measures in Singapore. It will operate alongside other tobacco control measures, including education, taxation, smoking cessation programmes, bans on tobacco advertising, the point-of-sale display ban and the minimum legal age for tobacco, to reduce the prevalence of smoking in Singapore, and meet the government's obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The SP Proposal

5. Broadly, the SP Proposal involves:

(a) The removal of all logos, colours, brand images and promotional information on the packaging of tobacco products (other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style); and

(b) An increase in the minimum size of the mandatory graphic health warnings from the existing 50% to cover 75% of all specified tobacco product packaging surfaces.

Further elaboration on the draft specifications is found at the Annex.

Extensive process of review and public consultation efforts

6. MOH has, in consultation with independent experts, engaged in an extensive process of reviewing and evaluating the available international and local studies, research and evidence relating to the SP Proposal. These include over 200 primary studies, reviews and materials relating to standardised packaging and enlarged graphic health warnings originating from a wide range of sources and countries, and across multiple disciplines (e.g. public health, marketing, psychology, economics and econometrics). As part of this process, MOH has also received feedback and submissions received from three public consultations[1].

7. After careful consideration of the evidence for and against the effectiveness of the proposed measures, as well as the feedback received over the course of all three public consultations, MOH has assessed that the SP Proposal is likely to be effective in achieving the following five public health objectives:

Reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products;

Eliminate the effects of tobacco packaging as a form of advertising and promotion;

Reduce the ability of tobacco packaging to mislead about the harmful effects of smoking (including on the relative harmful effects between products);

Increase the noticeability and effectiveness of graphic health warnings; and

Better inform smokers and non-smokers of the risks associated with tobacco use.

These objectives in turn, separately and together, and in conjunction with other tobacco control measures, contribute to achieving broader tobacco control aims such as discouraging non-smokers from picking up smoking, encouraging smokers to quit, and encouraging Singaporeans to adopt a tobacco-free lifestyle, which will lead ultimately to reduced smoking prevalence.

8. We will apply the SP Proposal to all tobacco products sold in Singapore. These will include cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, beedies, anghoon and other roll-your-own tobacco products.

9. A summary of the outcome of the 2018 Public Consultation and MOH's final assessment of the evidence pertaining to the SP Proposal can be found on MOH's website at https://www.moh.gov.sg/proposed-tobacco-control-measures/.

Legislative and implementation timeline

10. MOH will propose amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act (Cap. 309) in early 2019 to introduce the SP Proposal in Singapore. Legislative amendments will also be drafted to preserve the legal position for tobacco-related trade marks under the Trade Marks Act (Cap. 332) and tobacco-related designs under the Registered Designs Act (Cap. 266). If enacted, the new measures may be expected to take effect from 2020.

11. Sufficient notice will be given to the tobacco industry to inform them of the finalised specifications of the SP Proposal. A transition period (between when manufacturers have to produce standardised packs and when retailers must sell all products in standardised packs) will also be provided to allow a sell-through of old stock and to ease the implementation burden on the industry.

Source:Ministry of Health, Singapore