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Global Lung Health Forum Calls for International Support For Plain Packaging Legislation

Cape Town, Glenview, Lausanne, Montevideo, New York, Paris, Tokyo, May 31 2015.

On World No Tobacco Day (May 31, 2015), the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is mobilizing its members to raise awareness of the health benefits of plain packaging for cigarettes.  

World No Tobacco Day is observed worldwide today and provides an opportunity to draw attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.

Almost 6 million people in the world die from tobacco each year; 5 million people die of active smoking and more than 600,000 non-smokers die from exposure to passive smoke. A large proportion of these deaths are caused by respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. 70% of smokers start before the age of 18 and 94% before the age of 25 years, when lung damage already begins.

Given this, children and young people must be prevented from picking up their first cigarettes. FIRS urges support for plain packaging legislation which forces tobacco companies to make every cigarette packet look the same except for the make and brand name, with graphic photos accompanied by health warnings.

The theme for the 2015 World No Tobacco Day is ‘Stop illicit trade of tobacco products.’ Tobacco companies argue that plain packaging would increase counterfeiting of cigarettes by making packs easier to copy. However, plain packaging measures would always be coupled with pictorial health warnings, and would be as difficult to counterfeit as packs with brand logos. Illicit trade can also be counteracted through the use of chips and invisible ink on tobacco products. These are fully compatible with plain-packaging measures.

Research comparing existing branded cigarette packets with plain packaging found the latter to be significantly less attractive. Additionally, research in which young adults used plain packaging confirmed that plain packs increased negative perceptions about smoking.

Atul Malhotra, MD, President of the American Thoracic Society, said: “Tobacco remains a leading cause of disease and death around the world. The ATS supports plain packaging measures as part of global tobacco control efforts aimed at reducing the devastating health and economic consequences of these dangerous products.”

World No Tobacco Day
World No Tobacco Day is organized by the World Health Organization and takes place on May 31st every year. The theme for the 2015 World No Tobacco Day is “Stop illicit trade of tobacco products.”  The Convention is the world's foremost tobacco control instrument and this year's event will be designed to highlight the treaty's overall importance and to stress Parties' obligations under the treaty.

About FIRS
The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) was established in 2002, with members coming from six international societies Asociacion Latinoamericana del Thorax (ALAT), the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), the European Respiratory Society (ERS), the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), and the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS). The forum aims to promote advocacy in matters of global respiratory health and the identification of new areas for global initiatives.

Moodie, C.; MacKintosh, A. M.; Hastings, G.; Ford, A. (2011). "Young adult smokers' perceptions of plain packaging: A pilot naturalistic study". Tobacco Control20 (5): 367 373.  doi:10.1136/tc.2011.042911PMID 21752795edit