Plain Packaging Tobacco Controversy

The debate between smokers and anti-smokers will never end. From 2018, in several countries, there are laws that regulate tobacco or cigarette packaging.

This led to controversy among smokers, the government tried to cut the percentage of smokers by making plain packaging that includes a scary picture and smoking prohibition.

Australia has triumphed in a major trade dispute over its tobacco plain packaging law, with World Trade Organisation judges rejecting a complaint brought by Cuba, Indonesia, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.

The WTO panel said Australia’s law improved public health by reducing the use of tobacco products, rebuffing claims that alternative measures would be equally effective.

It also rejected the argument that Australia had unjustifiably infringed tobacco trademarks and violated intellectual property rights.


Australia’s law, introduced in 2010, bans logos and distinctively-colored cigarette packaging in flavor of drab olive packets that look more like military or prison issue, with brand names printed in small standardized fonts.

The challenge to it was seen as a test case for public health legislation globally and could lead to tighter marketing rules for unhealthy foods and alcohol as well as tobacco.

Honduras indicated that it was likely to appeal, saying in a statement that the ruling contained legal and factual errors and appeared not to be even-handed, objective or respectful of the complainants’ rights.

“It appears that this dispute will require the review of the Panel’s findings by the WTO Appellate Body before any final conclusions can be drawn,” it said.

An Indonesian trade official said Indonesia would examine its options. Cuban and Dominican trade officials were not immediately available for comment.


The UK is the second country in the world and the first in Europe to require cigarettes to be sold in plain, standardized packaging, following the lead of Australia which implemented the measure in December 2012.

For more information see ASH’s briefings below and the Smokefree Action Coalition website which has a dedicated page on standardized packaging which includes links to key parliamentary debates and press releases.


This image shows packaging compliant with TPD and Standardised Packaging regulations.

On 14 December 2018, a new regulation on plain cigarette packaging in Thailand was officially gazetted, making Thailand the first country in Asia and the first middle-income country to adopt plain packaging for tobacco products.

Starting from 10 September 2019, when the legislation will officially enter into force, all new tobacco products at sale will be required to meet the standards of plain packaging. The previous stock of non-standardized tobacco packs can be sold until 8 December 2019.

Under the new regulation, the cigarette packs will be in drab brown color, free of brand logo or trademark, with brand name displayed in standardized font and size.

Additionally, a new set of 10 pictorial health warnings will be released, which will be used on both sides of cigarette packages, covering 85% of front and back surfaces, together with textual warnings covering 60% of the side areas.

Singapore also implementing these laws and regulation.


The packaging of tobacco products will not be allowed to show logos, colors, images or other promotional information associated with the tobacco brand. Product and brand names will be allowed in a standardized font style and color.

The minimum size of graphic health warnings depicting the ill effects of smoking, such as gum disease, will also be increased to 75 percent of the packaging surface, up from 50 percent.

The Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Appearance, Packaging, and Labelling) Regulations 2019 (SP Regulations) were gazetted on Monday and will come into operation 12 months later, on July 1 next year.

Tobacco products that comply with either the current regulations under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Labelling) Regulations 2012 or the SP regulations can be imported, sold or distributed in Singapore during a transition period from April 1 to June 30 next year.

MOH said the transition period will help tobacco manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers adjust to and prepare for the full implementation of the SP Measure.

“The SP Measure for tobacco products will, 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 ultimately lead to reduced smoking prevalence,” said the ministry.

Those who do not comply with the SP regulations after July 1, 2020, may be liable to a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail term of up to six months, or both, in the case of first offenders.

Those with a prior qualifying conviction will face heavier penalties.


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