Norway consults on standardised tobacco packaging and FCTC Article 5.3

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Health and Care Services

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services has today published a consultation paper proposing standardised tobacco packaging. The consultation paper also discusses measures to implement Norway's obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3 to protect public health policy from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

– The objective of standardised tobacco packaging is to prevent tobacco use among children and young people. We know that young people are influenced by the appearance of tobacco packaging and it’s time to stop this type of tobacco marketing to young people, says Minister of Health and Care Services, Bent Høie.

The proposal would standardise all tobacco packaging by specifying a mandatory dark green color. The manufacturer’s logo and other design elements such as colors, signs or symbols would neither be allowed on the packaging nor the products. In addition, the proposed regulations would standardise brand names and variant names in a mandatory font, size, color and location on the packaging and on tobacco products.  All tobacco packaging will continue to have mandatory health warnings.

The consultation also proposes regulation of the shape of cigarette, roll-your-own tobacco and snus packaging. The Ministry asks for feedback on the need for further standardisation of other tobacco packaging, including whether minimum dimensions of snus packaging should be standardised.  

Regulation of the colour (white) of cigarette paper and snus portions is also included in the proposal. Marking of minimum weight of roll-your-own tobacco and brand and variant name on cigarettes is also standardised in the proposal. The Ministry asks for feedback concerning possible standardisation of the minimum size of snus portions. 

The proposal also contains a legal base to provide for possible future regulation of tobacco related products, such as herbal cigarettes.

Standardised tobacco products were introduced in Australia in 2012 and have since been adopted in England and Ireland. The Norwegian proposal is to a large extent aligned with the British and Irish regulation, which again has several similarities with the Australian legislation.

Preventing tobacco industry interference

Norway is one of 180 parties to the FCTC. Article 5.3 of the Convention obligates Parties to implement measures to protect public health policy from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. Guidelines adopted under the article specify that Parties shall increase knowledge and awareness about tobacco industry interference and methods used to this end.

– There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health interests. The WHO evaluation of Norwegian tobacco control efforts in 2010 concluded that Norway has not done enough to prevent tobacco industry influence on its tobacco policy. We need to increase knowledge about the tobacco industry’s methods to prevent effective tobacco measures and I ask interested parties for their views on appropriate measures to protect our health policies from tobacco industry interference, says Høie.

The consultation contains an overview of tobacco industry tactics and the recommendations in the FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines. The consultation paper also discusses some potential measures such as a new provision in the Tobacco Control Act stating that all relevant parts of government must implement measures to protect the tobacco policy from the tobacco industry, guidelines for government official’s contact with the tobacco industry, increased disclosure requirements for the industry concerning their activities and a lobby registry to ensure transparency. The consultation paper invites feedback on how to counter tobacco industry interference in Norway.