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De-sexifying cigarettes: WHO recommends plain packaging
De-sexifying cigarettes: WHO recommends plain packaging

De-sexifying cigarettes: WHO recommends plain packaging

by Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The buzz surrounding World No Tobacco Day this year is that less is more

Every year, on 31st May, we observe World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

For World No Tobacco Day this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is encouraging nations around the world to prepare for plain (standardised) packaging of tobacco products.

The WHO contends that plain packaging is an important demand reduction measure that reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products, restricts use of tobacco packaging as a form of tobacco advertising and promotion, limits misleading packaging and labelling, and increases the effectiveness of health warnings.

Plain packaging

cigarette plain packaging

Image taken from

Plain packaging of tobacco products refers to measures that restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.

In December 2012, Australia became the first country to fully implement plain packaging. Last year, Ireland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and France all passed laws to implement plain packaging from May 2016.  Several countries are in advanced stages of considering adoption of plain packaging laws.

Local tobacco companies say no

In Malaysia, the authorities are planning to introduce generic packaging for tobacco products. But this move has not been received positively by some.

Such a move, according to some tobacco manufacturers, is expected to worsen Malaysia’s illegal cigarettes problem with an estimated 40% of cigarette sales contraband.

Manufacturers and distributors argue that implementation of plain packaging in Malaysia would only worsen the situation given plain packaging offers opportunities for counterfeiting of legal products.

While this concern needs to be studied at length, tobacco use continues to pose a serious threat to the health of Malaysians.

Lung cancer is the most common cancer affecting men and one of the top 3 common cancers in Malaysia. More than 3,000 Malaysians are diagnosed with cancer each year.

According to the American Lung Cancer Association, lung cancer contributes to 80% and 90% of deaths in both women and men respectively. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer while women are 13 times more likely, compared to never smokers.

Easier not to start than to stop

Prevention of smoking can be easy with individuals making a decision to not start to smoke cigarettes or use any other tobacco products. Unfortunately, quitting is often very difficult. Most smokers begin to smoke in their teens.

Parents still have the biggest impact on their children’s decision on whether to smoke. The best way to prevent a youngster from taking up smoking is to have parents who don’t smoke. Children from smoking households are more likely to begin smoking than children from non-smoking households.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers smoking bans to have an influence in reducing demand for tobacco by creating an environment where smoking becomes increasingly more difficult, and helping shift social norms away from the acceptance of smoking in everyday life.

Along with tax measures, cessation measures and education, smoking bans are viewed by public health experts as an important element in reducing smoking rates and promoting positive health outcomes.

Smokers need our help

Smoking facts

Therefore, this World No Tobacco Day, what can we, as concerned citizens, do to support the move to reduce tobacco consumption and discourage smoking?

Supporting a loved one while they quit is one of the most important things we can do to help our loved ones live a longer, healthier life. As a friend or family member, it is important to offer our help each step of the way. Even when quitting gets hard, telling someone they can do it can make a big difference.

Quitting is a step-by-step process. An urge to smoke can happen many months after quitting. Listen well when they talk about it, remind them how far they have come, and keep offering help.

Relapse is part of the process

Taking a puff or smoking a cigarette or two is common when a person is quitting. If someone you know who is trying to quit has a relapse, lend your support and let him or her know that you care. Always remember to stay positive and never scold, nag, or make them feel guilty.

Also, don’t give up on your efforts to encourage and support your loved one. Research shows that most people try to quit smoking 5 to 7 times before they succeed. Think of relapse as practice for success – it means they are one step closer to quitting for good. As we mark World No Tobacco Day 2016, let us join forces and work together to promote a healthier lifestyle for all Malaysians.


Written by:
Dato’ Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim bin Dato’ Abdul Wahid
Medical Director & Clinical Oncologist, Beacon Hospital


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