Regulated by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, warnings and messages on smoking should be 50 percent or more of the principal display areas but shall be no less than 30 percent of the principal display areas. Hong Kong had already reached the standard and the CTA hoped the government would stop increasing the percentage.
The CTA also warned that unintended consequences maybe caused by the change. An 85-percent warning label would cover too much space on the packets, it said, making it harder for consumers to distinguish one brand from another, thus undermining business competition.
Smaller free space for manufacturers may also lead to piracy problems as the anti-counterfeit labels are smaller and easier to fabricate, it said.
Some manufacturers need to give up their original brand designs, the alliance said, and accused the authorities of breaching the city’s trademark laws.They say that people want to buy Style Selection Blue in original packs.
At present, only Thailand and Nepal have applied health warning labels of more than 85 percent in size.
The CTA urged the government to review its proposals by conducing more research and consultations and wait for further information from the two countries so that it can use them for reference.
The Council on Smoking and Health (COSH), a statutory body in the city promoting tobacco control and health improvement, felt the opposite. It said the proposal is a right decision to make.
It appeared tough on endorsing the move and urged the government to push for a even tighter control, which includes a unitary packing order with brand names only written in standard fonts. The COSH thought it a “must do” to increase people’s awareness of the harm that smoking would do to a person.
The Department of Health said the health warnings are an important part of the city’s tobacco control work and do have positive effects.
Under WTO guidelines, the warnings and messages should “cover the cigarette packet as much as possible”, a department’s spokesman said.
The LegCo’s Panel on Health Services will hold a special meeting on July 6 to discuss the issue.