Update: Singapore mulls plain packaging law

Following yesterday's news of the Australian government's decision to ban branding on tobacco products, the local health authority says it will continue to monitor worldwide trends on the matter.

Yesterday, in a watershed move, the Australian government banned all forms of branding from tobacco products, urging other governments to take the same measures.

When asked if similar measures will take place in Singapore, a spokesperson for the Health Promotion Board said that while tobacco control continues to be a "public health priority in Singapore" and that it has observed the court case in Australia, it would continue to monitor worldwide trends on the matter.

"Any tobacco control policy adopted by Singapore will be reviewed and customised to suit the unique requirements of the country," said the spokesperson.

Under the ruling, all logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text appearing on cigarette packs will be soon restricted. Product names must be shown in a standard colour, along with position of brand names and font size, taking away a key element in marketing cigarettes.

"This is a watershed moment for tobacco control around the world," Australia's federal attorney-general Nicola Roxon, said in a statement to media.

"Australia's actions are being closely watched by governments around the world, including by Norway, Uruguay, UK, EU, NZ, France, South Africa and China.
"Other countries might now consider their next steps," she added.
Roxon said the decision is a victory for families who have lost people to tobacco-related illness.

"For anyone who has ever lost someone, this is for you. No longer when a smoker pulls out a packet of cigarettes will that packet be a mobile billboard."

The decision has been furiously contested by tobacco companies which have formed an online campaign to contest the decision, claiming taxpayers will eventually foot the cost for the law.

British American Tobacco Australia released a statement lambasting the new law as a "bad piece of law that would have serious unintended consequences".
Earlier, Philip Morris also took legal action against the Australian government.

All changes must be made by 1 December this year. Industry watchers feel it is likely the laws will come soon to other Asian markets.

"It's likely that the legislation will go across the rest of Asia and it's sensible that Hong Kong and Singapore will be the next markets," a senior agency source told Marketing on the basis on anonymity.

"No doubt it will be a major challenge for tobacco companies, packaging has long been the industry's key way of communication. But similar to graphics warning, I think it will not be as big of a deal as some worry. We will see tobacco brands rely more on trade marketing and BTL, which are both very mature marketing techniques in various markets in Asia."