Tobacco manufacturers and importers will face heavy fines if they do not comply with new packaging rules established by the Ministry of Public Health.
Packaging and labeling regulations for the Tobacco Control Act 2017 were signed by Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, on May 18. It demands that the industry carries the displays on the unit package and any outside packaging and labelling, except cartons, of smoked and smokeless tobacco products.
The regulations, which were published in the Gazette on May 26, last, gives the industry nine months to comply with the requirements set by the Ministry with strict rules on annual rotation for labels which must be 60% of the packaging.
The industry has at least three months before the products are placed on the market for the first time, and for products already on the market, within three months from the date of commencement of the Regulations.
Every manufacturer, wholesale distributor or importer of smoked and smokeless tobacco products must submit samples of their products’ packages to the Minister not later than three months prior to the beginning of each rotation period.
The labels, which are included in the Regulation, carry vivid images clearly intended to warn and scare potential users along with the warning of the danger posed by tobacco.
‘Smoking causes lung cancer’, one label reads, which shows a healthy lung alongside a ‘damaged’ one.
Another label warned that ‘Smoking causes mouth disease and also causes bad breath, speech problems and makes it difficult to eat and swallow’. That label depicts an image of a damaged mouth.
Other labels address smoking and its effect on children and the fact that it can cause ‘gangrene which can cause amputation of your limbs’. The labels also include partially rotted toes and a cigarette bent downward with the warning that ‘smoking causes impotence’.
Also required to be displayed is the written warning that “Smoke from this product contains extremely addictive nicotine and toxic substances such as tar and carbon monoxide. No safe level of consumption exists for this product.”
Persons who fail to comply with the Regulations are liable on summary conviction to a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for three months and in the case of a body corporate to a fine of $9M.
Health officials last month sent a clear signal that the tobacco industry must comply with the tobacco control legislation, which was enacted last December.
Minister Lawrence and health officials outlined this during a meeting with representatives and lawyers of the Demerara Tobacco Company (DEMTOCO) on the enforcement matters. The meeting was convened with the industry to ensure compliance with the new laws. Health officials have stressed that no smoking in public places and public transportation must be observed while advertisements of tobacco products are prohibited.
President David Granger assented to the Tobacco Control Act 2017 in July 2017; however, the commencement order was issued on December 15, 2017, by Lawrence.
Guyana has joined its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) sister countries, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and Suriname by passing tobacco control legislation to safeguard the health of present and future generations from the devastating health and socio-economic effects of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.