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No new anti-smoking laws coming—Fuad
The Tobacco Control Act already exists and T&T should not expect new legislation similar to Australia’s draconian anti-smoking legislation to be passed in T&T anytime soon, says Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan. He was responding to questions from the Guardian on whether the Government intends to take a tougher approach with stronger anti-smoking legislation. “Not in the near future. There is already a Tobacco Control Act in T&T,” he told the Guardian yesterday.
He added that if the Government takes stronger action, they will have to do the same with alcohol and other “destructive products.” “Smoking is associated with lung cancer and respiratory disorders. Soft drinks and fast food are associated with obesity and its complications of death by cardiovascular disorders. Non-communicable diseases are causing more such deaths. If we follow the no-brand image on cigarettes, then we may have to do the same to a lot of destructive products like alcohol also,” he said.
Australia’s High Court has ruled that from December 1, cigarettes and tobacco products must be sold in plain olive green packs with graphic health warnings, such as pictures of mouth cancer and other smoking-related illnesses. British American Tobacco, Britain’s Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco challenged the law in Australia’s High Court, claiming the rules were unconstitutional because they effectively extinguished their intellectual property rights.
Australia’s Attorney General Nicola Roxon hailed the ruling as “a watershed moment for tobacco control around the world.” A release to the media from Witco calls the Australian High Court ruling a disappointment but added that they do not expect the same to happen in T&T.
“We do not believe that the same thing will happen in T&T in the future.This court’s decision only concerns Australian constitutional law as the scope of the proceedings was strictly focused on addressing the issue of whether plain packaging legislation is contrary to a specific provision of the Australian constitution which prohibits the taking of property without compensation.
In addition, the court is yet to provide its written judgment setting out any reasoning for their decision. Australia is also currently facing other challenges to the plain packaging issue under other investment and trade-related disputes.” Witco also said if something similar were to happen in T&T a black market would emerge.
“If the same measure was being considered for T&T, we can expect that the illegal cigarette black market will grow further when all packs look the same and are easier to copy. The principal driver of illicit trade continues to be the economic benefits available to consumers and smugglers through tax evasion but there are other factors such as weak border controls, inadequate sanctions and corruption that facilitate it.”
Witco added there is no proof that plain packaging would discourage youths or other groups from smoking. “As a company, we are prepared to fully support any form of evidence-based regulation but there is no proof to suggest plain packaging of tobacco products will be effective in discouraging youth initiation or encouraging cessation by existing smokers. West Indian Tobacco will continue to take every action necessary to protect its valuable brands and its right to compete in this market as a legitimate commercial business selling a legal product, based on the full legal use of our intellectual property rights.”
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