Cigarette firms reject pictorial warning plan


  • Nation
  • Friday, 14 Feb 2003

BY JACQUELINE ANN SURIN

PETALING JAYA: Two major cigarette companies have rejected the position of more than 180 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to have pictorial warnings on cigarette boxes, while another supports “clear and conspicuous” health warnings but with conditions.  

“Regulations and any action on public health should be based on rational review of hard evidence. 

“Pictorial warnings represent an emotional rather than a rational response to the issue of consumer information or awareness,” British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd said in a statement. 

BAT – the largest cigarette company in Malaysia – was responding to a report in The Star on Monday which quoted Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) steering committee member Mary Assunta as saying pictorial warnings were one of the clauses the NGOs wanted to see inserted in the first international treaty on tobacco control. 

The treaty – known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – will be negotiated by 192 countries for the final time in Geneva from Feb 17 to 28 under the auspices of the World Health Organisation. 

Citing the successful use of pictorial warnings in Canada, Assunta had said such warnings would be more effective especially in countries with high illiteracy rates or where smokers have grown accustomed to text-only warnings. 

JTI’s Southeast Asia corporate affairs director Dr Shireen M. Hashim said there was no evidence that graphic images better informed smokers about the risks of smoking or deterred young people from picking up the habit. 

She said the message content of warning labels should have a “reasonable scientific basis.”  

“Graphic warnings may expropriate our trademarks, infringe our intellectual property rights and reduce our ability to provide information to consumers via our packs,” she said. 

Philip Morris said it believed that all cigarette packs should contain a “clear and conspicuous health warning” adding that it deferred to governments as to their contents. 

“We fully support health warning requirements so long as the size and placement permits us to continue to effectively communicate our trademarks and other information that helps adult smokers distinguish one brand from another,” it said in a statement, adding that this was crucial for competition.  

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