Timeline, international developments & major news stories
Australia – Timeline of events, produced with The University of Sydney and McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer— see PLAIN TOBACCO PACKAGING IN AUSTRALIA: A time-line of legislative and legal developments
International developments in plain packaging
Thank you to the Canadian Cancer Society for compiling this information over several years,1-3 to Tobacco Free Kids for expanding on and further updating this information4 and to the World Health Organization for its 2016 global status report updated in October 2018.5 This section combines information from all three sources and additional information that has become available since publication of the WHO report.
Australia's legislation has been applauded by respected commentators in tobacco control6, 7 and by international health authorities.8 It has also strengthened the resolve of several other governments to follow Australia's example. As at August 2021, plain packaging laws have been adopted and are in force in 20 jurisdictions. Legislation is being considered by parliaments in six countries, and is going through a formal process of consideration in a further four. Political commitments have been made in at least six countries.
Laws adopted and in force
Following the lead of Australia (December 2012), plain packaging has been required at the retail level in France (since January 1, 2017), the United Kingdom (since May 20, 2017), Norway (since July 1, 2018 ), New Zealand (since June 6, 2018), Ireland (since September 30, 2018), Hungary (since May 20 2019), Saudi Arabia (since May 1 2019), Turkey (since July 2019),Thailand and Uruguay (since September 2019), Slovenia and Israel (since January 2020), Singapore (since July 2020), Belgium (since January 2021), the Netherlands (from October 2021) Denmark (from April 2022) and Guernsey and Jersey (from July 2022).
Plain packaging: implementation summary, March 2021
||Start of sell through period (manufacturer level)
||Date of full implementation (retail level)
||Oct. 1, 2012
||Dec. 1, 2012
||May 20, 2016
||Jan. 1, 2017
||May 20, 2016
||May 20, 2017
||Mar 14, 2018
|| Jun 6, 2018
||July 1, 2017
||July 1, 2018
||Sept. 30, 2017
||Sept. 30, 2018
|| May 1, 2019
|| May 1, 2019
||May 20, 2018
||May 20, 2019
|| July 5, 2019
|| July 5, 2019
|| Sept 10, 2019
|| Dec 8, 2019
|| Dec 21, 2019
|| Dec 21, 2019
||Jan. 1, 2020
||Jan. 1, 2020
|| Jan 8, 2020
|| Jan 8, 2020
||Nov 9, 2019
||Feb 7, 2020
|| July 1, 2020
|| July 1, 2020
|| Jan 1, 2020
|| Jan 1, 2021
||Oct 1, 2020
||Oct 1, 2021
||July 1, 2021
||Apr 1, 2022
|| July 31, 2021
|| July 31, 2022
||July 31, 2021
||July 31, 2022
Details of legislation now in force
France – Plain packaging legislation was adopted Dec 17, 2015.9, 10 This legislation was upheld on Jan 21, 2016 by France’s Constitutional Council.11 On Dec. 23, 2016, the Council of State (France’s highest administrative court) dismissed legal challenges.12 An implementing Decree5 and Decision13 were adopted Mar 21, 2016, and a further Decree adopted Aug. 11, 2016.14 On July 20, 2015, France hosted a 10-country ministerial meeting on plain packaging.15, 16 Packs started appearing on the market in France in May 2016 and all packs were plain by January 2017. A related piece of legislation in France, Decree No 20116-117 of 11, allows the Minister to outlaw specified ‘promotional brand names’ (brand names with characteristics/connotations that promote smoking). On the 6 August 2018, the French Conseil d’Etat (Council of State) referred to the European Court of Justice a request to the Prime Minister by the Federation of Cigar Manufacturers, to repeal this Decree.17
United Kingdom – Plain packaging regulations were approved March 16, 201518 and came into force May 20, 2016, applying to England, Wales5 Northern Ireland5 and Scotland.19 On May 19, 2016, a tobacco industry legal challenge was dismissed, with an appeal dismissed by the Court of Appeal on Nov. 30, 2016, and with application for leave to appeal to the UK Supreme Court dismissed April 12, 2017.20, 21
New Zealand – Plain packaging legislation was adopted Sep 14, 2016 and regulations approved Jun 6, 2017. Packs came onto the market from Mar 18, 2018 at the manufacturer level and Jun 6 at the retailer level.22-24
Norway – Plain packaging legislation was adopted Feb 10, 2017 and regulations were adopted June 22, 2017.25 Plain packs have been required from Jul 1, 2017 at the manufacturer level and Jul 1 2018 at the retailer level.26-30 On Nov 6, 2017, the Oslo District Court dismissed an attempt to suspend implementation of plain packaging requirements applying to snuff, pending the outcome of a legal challenge.31
Ireland – Plain packaging legislation was enacted March 10, 2015,32-35 amended Feb. 16, 2017.36 Packs have been required to be plain since Sep 30, 2017 at manufacturer level and Sept 30 2018 at the retailer level.37
Hungary – On Aug 16, 2016, Hungary adopted a Decree to require plain packaging.38-40 New brands registered after Apr 30, 2016 and placed on the market from Aug 20, 2016 had to be sold in retail in plan packs. Brands that were registered after Apr 2016 but were already on the market prior to Aug 2016 had until May 20, 2018 to be sold at retail in plain packs. Brands that existed before Apr 2016 must be manufactured in plain packs from May 20, 2017 and must be sold in plain packs from May 20, 2019.
Cook Islands – Plain packaging in practice; packages same as in New Zealand, since June 20183
Monaco – Plain packaging in practice; packages same as in France, since January 20173
Saudi Arabia – In October 2018, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia notified the World Trade Organization of its intention to adopt plain packaging regulations.41 On the 17th December 2018, plain packaging legislation was entered into force, with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority giving manufacturers and importers of tobacco products a grace period until 1st May 2019.42
Turkey – Plain packaging was included in the Government’s national action plan for 2015-2018.43 In August, 2016, the Health Minister stated that plain packaging was under consideration.44 On Feb. 9, 2017, he stated ‘we have completed preparations for the introduction of plain packaging’.45 A plain packaging bill was put to the Turkish Parliament on 30th October 201846 and following discussions in November47 on 5th December 2018, Turkey introduced new plain packaging rules for tobacco, via Law Number 7151 Amending Certain Laws and Decree Laws Regarding Support of Public Health. All tobacco products manufactured or imported before 5th December 2018 must comply with the changes by 5th July 2019.48
Thailand – A Thailand government representative stated that plain packaging was under consideration in Nov 2015.4, 49 An Act containing regulatory authority to require plain packaging was gazetted Apr 2, 2017 and came into effect on Jul 4, 2017.4, 50 The necessary regulations were approved by the Public Health Ministry on Nov 14, 2018.51 All tobacco products must comply with the new legislation by September 2019.52
Uruguay – Uruguay’s President stated on Nov 24, 2015 and reiterated on Jul 8, 2016 that plain packaging was being considered.53, 54 A Philip Morris legal claim under a bilateral Switzerland-Uruguay investment agreement was dismissed on Jul 8, 2016, regarding significant packaging restrictions (though not plain packaging).55 Subsequently, on July 13, 2016, the Health Minister stated that a plain packaging law was being developed and would be implemented in 2017.56 A Government bill providing enabling authority to require plain packaging was introduced in the Senate Nov 6, 2017 and referred to the Public Health Committee Nov 7, 2017.57, 58 A Presidential decree was subsequently issued and the Ministry then issued an ordinance to implement it.3 On December 21, 2018 Uruguay became the first country in Latin America to require plain packaging for tobacco products following the president’s signature of the legislation, with an implementation date of December 21, 2019.59
Slovenia – Act adopted Feb 15, 2017 requires plain packaging effective Jan 1, 2020, and required the Minister of Health to adopt a plain packaging regulation by Sep 8, 2017.60, 61 The laws were subsequently adopted April 2019, for implementation Jan 1, 2020.62
Israel – On January 8, 2019 Israel's Parliament passed new rules relating to the marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Health warnings must comprise between 30%-65% of the package size (depending on the tobacco product), and the remaining area of the packaging, for all brands, will be in Pantone 448C (described as "drab dark brown"). The new regulations will come into force on 8 January 2020.63
Canada – Plain packaging was recommended in 1994 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.64 The Liberal Government elected Oct 19, 2015 committed in electoral platform to implement plain packaging.65 On Nov 13, 2015, the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Minister of Health included plain packaging as a ‘top priority’.66 On May 31, 2016, Health Minister Jane Philpott launched a public consultation ending August 31, 2016.67, 68 A government bill, Bill S-5, to elaborate on regulatory authority for plain packaging was approved by the Senate on Jun 1, 2017, received first reading in the House of Commons on June 15, 201769 and was adopted May 23, 2018. On May 1 2019, the Health Minister reported that plain packaging would be introduced nationwide on November 9, 2019, with full implementation by February 7, 2020. In order to increase the size of the health warning, packages must be a slide-and-shell design, rather than the smaller, narrower flip-top design.70
Singapore – On Dec. 29, 2015, Singapore launched a public consultation on plain packaging ending March 29, 2016.71, 72 On Mar. 9, 2017, the Senior Minister of State for Health stated that a further public consultation would be held in 2017.5 On Feb. 4, 2018, Singapore launched a public consultation ending Mar. 16, 2018.5, 73 The Ministry of Health announced on 31 October 2018 that it will propose amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act (Cap. 309) in early 2019 to introduce plain packaging into Singapore.74 On July 1st, 2019, Singapore published the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Appearance, Packaging and Labelling) Regulations 2019, to come into effect July 1, 2020 at both the manufacturer and retail levels. The regulations mandate plain packaging and an increase in the size of picture warnings from 50% to 75% effective July 1, 2020. A series of 6 different picture warnings is required.75
Belgium – The Public Health Minister announced Apr 9, 2016 that Belgium was to have plain packaging by 2019.4, 76 He announced Sep 7, 2018 that plain packaging would be legislated for after the required EU notification process. In April 2019, the decree was adopted. The new legal requirements are applicable on all tobacco products put on the Belgian market from 1st January 2020. However, retailers have 12 months (until 31 December 2020) to sell their remaining old stock.77, 78
Netherlands – Plain packaging was implemented in the Netherlands on the 1st October 2020. Cigarettes and rolling tobacco are sold in dark green-brown packaging without logos, with the brand and variant names in a standard typeface, and with a graphic health warning. Retailers are able to sell existing stock until October 1st 2021, while new products must have plain packaging. For other products, such as cigars and e-cigarettes, plain packaging will be required from 1 January 2022.79
Denmark – On the 12th of December 2020 the Minister of Health and Elderly Affairs announced amendments to Denmark’s Tobacco Products Act including the implementation of plain packaging. Manufacturers must implement the new requirements from July 1st 2021, meanwhile retailers are able to sell existing stock until April 1st 2022, after which time all tobacco products (except cigars and pipe tobacco) as well as herbal smoking products, e-cigarettes and refills (regardless of whether they contain nicotine) must be sold in plain packaging.80, 81
Guernsey and Jersey (self-governing islands (British Crown Dependencies) located in the English Channel) – On the 18th of May 2021 Guernsey’s Committee for Health & Social Care announced the Tobacco Advertising and Related Activities (Guernsey) Regulations 2021. On the 30th of June 2021 Jersey’s States Assembly announced the Restriction on Smoking (Standardised Packaging and Labelling) (Jersey) Regulations 2021, in line with Guernsey’s regulations. The regulations introduce plain packaging for tobacco products from July 31st, 2021 in both Islands. Retailers have 12 months (until July 31st, 2022) to sell existing cigarette and loose tobacco stock, and 24 months (until July 31st, 2023) to sell other tobacco stock (e.g. cigars and cigarillos).82-84
Laws adopted but not yet in force
Plain packaging legislation has been passed in Georgia, Mauritius, and Romania.
Georgia – Legislation was adopted on May 30, 2017 with regulatory authority to require plain packaging.85 The legislation required that a Decree must be adopted by July 2017 and implemented by January 2018, however this has so far not occurred.4
Mauritius – On November 1, 2018, the Cabinet of Ministers of Mauritius approved the introduction of plain packaging. The text reads as follows:
“Cabinet has taken note of the introduction of Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products in Mauritius in June 2019, in line with the Guidelines for the implementation of Articles 11 and 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which Mauritius ratified in 2004. The objectives of plain packaging are to –
(a) reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products;
(b) eliminate the effects of tobacco packaging as a form of advertising and promotion;
(c) address package design techniques that may suggest that some products are less harmful than others; and
(d) increase the noticeability and effectiveness of pictorial health warnings.”
The plan was to develop regulations to enact the June 2019 implementation target.86
Romania – A law adopted Nov 4, 2016 includes a provision authorizing government to adopt decision requiring plain packaging87 but regulations have so far not been adopted. Legislation being considered by Parliaments Plain packaging legislation is drafted and before Parliaments in Brasil, Chile, Ecuador, Panama, South Africa and Turkey.
Brasil – Five different plain packaging bills have been introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives, most recently in May 2016.4
Chile – A bill was approved by Senate, July 9, 2015, and forwarded to House of Deputies.88 This was approved by the House Health Committee January 22 2018 and was forwarded to House Agricultural Committee.3
Ecuador – A bill for plain packaging was introduced to the National Assembly on August 3, 2016 and was assigned to the health committee.4
Panama – A Bill was introduced to the National Assembly on January 2013. A sub-committee recommended removal making reference to World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS ) agreement, but no further action was taken.4
South Africa – The South African Health Minister stated Jul 24, 2014 that he wanted to implement plain packaging,5 and stated Mar 18, 201589 and May 31, 201690 that legislation will be introduced in Parliament. In Nov, 2017, the Health Minister stated a draft bill would be submitted to Cabinet in early 2018.91 A bill was published May 9, 2018 with consultation period ending Aug 9, 2018. The Bill contained regulatory authority for introduction of plain packaging .74
Plain packaging under formal government consideration
Plain packaging legislation is or has been under formal consideration in Finland, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Taiwan.
Finland – The Government national action plan on tobacco (June 2014) includes plain packaging as planned measure.4
Sri Lanka – On Nov 7, 2016, the Sri Lankan President stated that Minister of Health is proposing to introduce plain packaging “in the near future.”92, 93 On Apr 11, 2018 Government announced that Cabinet had authorised drafting of legislation.3
Sweden – The Swedish Minister of Health directed the committee examining implementation of the EU Tobacco Product Directive to also consider plain packaging. This was subsequently recommended by the health committee but raised constitutional issues. The Government has yet to propose a bill in response and action seems unlikely in the short to medium term.4
Taiwan – On Feb. 13, 2017, the Taiwanese Government provided notification of a draft bill containing regulatory authority to require plain packaging.94
Countries in which political commitments to plain packaging have been given
Expressions of support for implementation of plain packaging have also been made by the governments of 95 Botswana,96 Gambia, Kenya,97 Malaysia, Nepal, and the United Arab Emirates.
Botswana – On May 21, 2016, the Minister of Health announced government intentions to introduce plain packaging.4
Gambia –The Minister of Health and Welfare stated on August 2, 2016 that his Ministry supported plain packaging and the Government of The Gambia would soon be passing laws requiring it.4
Kenya – On May 31, 2016, the Cabinet Secretary for Health announced that a formal plan and timeline for implementation would be developed.
Malaysia – On March 21, 2016, the Health Minister said no implementation date would be announced until talks with tobacco companies on intellectual property had concluded.4
Nepal – On May 8, 2017, Minister of Health announced that Nepal would have plain packaging by 2018.98-100
United Arab Emirates –The Ministry of Health announced in February 2014 that it intended to introduce legislation that would include plain packaging.4
Other relevant law
East Timor –A Ministerial Diploma on the labelling of tobacco products came into force on May 13, 2018, which requires that all surfaces not covered by health warnings are coloured grey aluminium and that the brand/logo only appear on the front outer surface (the Diploma also stipulates new GHWs covering 100% of the back surface and 85% of the front surface – the largest in the world). Any text or logos must be white; however, because a logo is allowed and the brand name may appear in a stylised font, the requirements are not a full plain packaging policy.101
European Union – new Tobacco Products Directive adopted April 3, 2014 explicitly states that 28 EU countries have the option of implementing plain packaging, a provision upheld on May 4, 2016 by the European Court of Justice as valid when dismissing a tobacco industry legal challenge.102-104
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13. Arrêté du 21 mars 2016 relatif aux conditions de neutralité et d’uniformisation des conditionnements et du papier des cigarettes et du tabac à rouler. NOR : AFSP1607269A [Decision of 21 March 2016 relating to conditions of plain and standardized packaging and cigarette paper and rolling tobacco] 2016; Available from: https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/jo_pdf.do?id=JORFTEXT000032276123.
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46. Elif Dagli. Plain Packaging bill finally at Turkish Parliament, Ms Kylie Lindorff, Editor 4 Nov 2018, Framework Convention Alliance.
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49. Deboonme A. Thailand faces tough fight on plain packaging, in The Nation2016. Available from: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Thailand-faces-tough-fight-on-plain-packaging-30293004.html.
50. Tobacco Products Control Act of A.D. 2017. article 38 2017; Available from: http://www.tobaccocontrollaws.org/files/live/Thailand/Thailand%20-%20TC%20Act%202017.pdf.
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