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Health minister wants tobacco companies to remove branding from packaging

25.6% of people in Catalonia smoked in 2018, compared to 24% in 2017

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28 July 2019 01:00 PM

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ACN|Barcelona

Catalan health minister Alba Vergés is in favor of making tobacco companies remove branding from their packaging – a strategy that has already been implemented in Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and France – in an attempts to reduce the prevalence of tobacco consumption.

In 2018, 25.6% of Catalonia’s population smoked, which was a 1.6% increase from 2017’s levels. Smoking is also found to be more common among younger people. The Catalan Health Ministry has also announced it is working on another law to ban smoking in private vehicles, outdoor sporting facilities and outside public transportation stops to bring those numbers down.

As for the neutral packaging proposal in lieu of current packaging found in Spain, it would be of a standard color and contain warning messages and images. Tobacco companies’ names would also appear in a small and standardized font.

The Catalan government is also looking into asking Spain to establish a minimum price for tobacco products since there is a correlation between price and consumption, especially among younger people.

According to Vergés, the industry must adapt to the current public health norms. There is only, however, so much the Catalan Health Ministry can do as many regulations fall under the state’s jurisdiction.

“We will propose neutral packaging with no branding wherever we can, even if it does not fall under our jurisdiction,” says Vergés.

Countries, such as France, that have implemented neutral packaging measures saw great resistance from tobacco companies and vendors, but Vergés believes in persistence: “It all takes time, and changing a country’s culture isn’t easy. When you try to change things drastically you’ll find resistance that makes you go backwards. We need to take small steps forward.”

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  • Alba Vergés speaking to ACN on July 26, 2019 (Xavier Alsinet/ACN)

  • Alba Vergés speaking to ACN on July 26, 2019 (Xavier Alsinet/ACN)

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