Government proposes to amend requirements of health warnings and indication of tar and nicotine yields on tobacco product packets or retail containers

Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      The Government proposes to amend the requirements of health warnings and indication of tar and nicotine yields on packets or retail containers of tobacco products under the Smoking (Public Health) (Notices) Order (Cap. 371B) with a view to updating the health warning messages and maintaining saliency and enhancing the impact. The Smoking (Public Health) (Notices) (Amendment) Order 2017 (the Amendment Order) will be published in the Gazette on April 21.
     A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said today (April 19), "A health warning on a tobacco product packet is a cost-effective health communication intervention because of its unparalleled reach among smokers. Health warnings and messages are particularly effective when combined with information designed to increasetobacco users' motivation and confidence in their ability to quit.

International experience and evidence demonstrate that the effectiveness of graphic health warnings increases with their prominence. In many countries, more smokers report getting information about health risks of smoking from health warnings than most other means."
     The existing six graphic health warnings have been in use for 10 years. In May 2015, the Government proposed to amend the prescribed forms (including specifications) of the health warnings, the size and number of health warnings and messages for the packets or retail containers of cigarettes and tobacco products under the Smoking (Public Health) (Notices) Order as follows:
  1. the area of the graphic health warning shall be of a size that covers at least 85 per cent of the two largest surfaces of the packet and of the retail container;
  2. increasing the number of forms of health warning from six to 12;
  3. the following health warning message is to be included in the existing statement "HKSAR GOVERNMENT WARNING":
    "QUITLINE 1833 183"; and
  4. the indication of tar and nicotine yields should appear on a surface other than a surface bearing the health warning.
     The Government proposes to introduce similar changes to the graphical content and format for retail containers of cigars, pipe tobacco or cigarette tobacco, except for the indication of tar and nicotine yields.
     The Government consulted the Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Health Services (HS Panel) in May 2015 and attended a special meeting with deputations on July 6, 2015. In May 2016, the Government issued a letter to the trade setting out the detailed specifications of the proposal.

With a view to facilitating the trade's understanding, the Government held a briefing on the technical issues relating to implementation of the proposals in November 2016. The Government reported the progress at the HS Panel meeting on December 19, 2016, and attended another meeting with deputations on January 17, 2017. Subsequently, the Government attended the HS Panel meetings on February 28 and March 20, 2017, for further discussion of the proposal.
     Having considered the operational issues expressed by the trade, the Government proposes to adjust the graphical content and format requirements for retail containers of cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco or cigarette tobacco as follows:
(a) Technical requirement in relation to the tar and nicotine yield indication on retail containers of cigarettes
     Instead of printing the indication on a white background as required in the current legislation, there would be no restriction on the background colour of the tar and nicotine yields indication. Characters, letters and numbers, as long as they are clearly visible and in compliance with the requirements on font types and sizes, could be printed in black or white.
(b) Size of health warning requirement on the lid of drum-shaped containers
     The English version of the same health warning would remain covering 50 per cent of the surface area of the lid.
(c) Requirements for retail containers of cigars, pipe tobacco or cigarette tobacco (except for those containing one cigar)
     Under the adjusted proposal, with a view to providing greater flexibility, the health warning will cover 100 per cent of one of the two largest surfaces and 70 per cent of the other largest surface of a cigar box.
(d) Adaptation period
     The full adaptation period is 12 months. Starting from October 21, 2017 (six months from the date of gazettal of the Amendment Order), the Government would allow both packets of tobacco products carrying the present form or the new form of health warnings to be put on sale.

Starting from April 21, 2018 (12 months from the date of gazettal of the Amendment Order), packets or retail containers of tobacco products put on sale in Hong Kong should only carry the new form of health warnings as set out in the Amendment Order. 
     The Amendment Order will be tabled before the LegCo on April 26. Subject to approval by the LegCo, the Amendment Order will come into operation on October 21, 2017, and provide another six months for adaptation that ends on April 20, 2018.

Published on: 2017-04-19

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