Tobacco packaging fight: Malaysia considers tougher labeling regulations

Global Business

The Malaysian government is looking to completely strip branding from cigarette packs, a move to discourage smokers. But they are already facing backlash from companies.

CCTV’s Rian Maelzer reports from Kuala Lumpur.

Tobacco Packaging Fight: Malaysia considers tougher labeling regulations

The Malaysian government is looking completely strip branding from cigarette packs, a move to discourage smokers. But they are already facing backlash from companies. CCTV's Rian Maelzer reports from Kuala Lumpur.

To the alarm of the tobacco industry, Malaysia’s government said it wants to emulate Australia, the only country the world that so far requires plain, generic packaging for cigarettes.

The tobacco industry, with other business groups and intellectual property advocates, warn that the plan could backfire, damaging Malaysia’s reputation for respecting intellectual property rights and leading to a spike in contraband and counterfeit products on the market.

Malaysia already bans smoking in enclosed spaces, and requires graphic health warnings on cigarette packages.

But the government wants to go further, stripping tobacco packaging of all branding except the name, as Australia has already done, and others like France and Canada are planning to do.

“There have been studies done and it has shown that if you just put plain packaging with the name of the manufacturer in a specified font, no heraldic emblems, no image, then in fact people tend to buy fewer boxes of cigarettes, tend to smoke less,” Dr. Ashok Philip, the president of Malaysian Medical Association said.

Not surprisingly, big tobacco firms like the makers of cigarette brands, including Camel and Winston, staunchly oppose the move. They said packaging devoid of brand identifiers would increase contraband and make counterfeiting far easier.

Intellectual property groups agree and point out that Australia’s plain packaging law is already being challenged through the World Trade Organization.


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