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, 1-4 to Tobacco Free Kids for expanding on and further updating this information 5-7 and to the World Health Organization for its 2016 global status report updated in October 2018 and June 2022. 8 This scection combines information from all three sources and additional information that has become available outside of these publications.
Australia's legislation has been applauded by respected commentators in tobacco control 9, 10 and by international health authorities. 11 It has also strengthened the resolve of several other governments to follow Australia's example. As of September 2022, plain packaging laws have been adopted and implemented in 22 jurisdictions (see Table 11A6.1) and adopted with implementation pending in a further five countries. 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 implemented
Following the lead of Australia (December 2012), plain packaging has been required at the retail level in France and Monaco (since January 2017), the United Kingdom (since May 2017), Norway (since July 2018), New Zealand and the Cook Islands (since June 2018), Ireland (since September 2018), Thailand and Uruguay (since September 2019), Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Turkey and Israel (since January 2020), Canada (since February 2020), Singapore (since July 2020), Belgium (since January 2021), the Netherlands (since October 2021), Hungary (since Jan 2022), Denmark (since April 2022), and Guernsey and Jersey (since July 2022).
Plain packaging: implementation summary, September 2022 (in order of date of full implementation)
||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
||Sept 10, 2019
||Dec 8, 2019
||Dec 21, 2019
||Dec 21, 2019
||May 1, 2019
||May 1, 2019
||Jan. 1, 2020
||Jan. 1, 2020
||Dec 5, 2019
||Jan 5, 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
||Jan 1, 2022
||Jan 1, 2022
||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 December 17, 2015. 12, 13 This legislation was upheld on January 21, 2016 by France’s Constitutional Council. 14 On December 23, 2016, the Council of State (France’s highest administrative court) dismissed legal challenges. 15 An implementing Decree 8 and Decision 16 were adopted March 21, 2016, and a further Decree adopted August 11, 2016. 17 On July 20, 2015, France hosted a 10-country ministerial meeting on plain packaging. 18, 19 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. 20
United Kingdom – Plain packaging regulations were approved March 16, 2015 21 and came into force May 20, 2016, applying to England, Wales 8 Northern Ireland 8 and Scotland. 22 On May 19, 2016, a tobacco industry legal challenge was dismissed, with an appeal dismissed by the Court of Appeal on November 30, 2016, and with application for leave to appeal to the UK Supreme Court dismissed April 12, 2017. 23, 24
New Zealand – Plain packaging legislation was adopted September 14, 2016 and regulations approved June 6, 2017. Packs came onto the market from March 18, 2018 at the manufacturer level and June 6 at the retailer level. 25-27
Norway – Plain packaging legislation was adopted February 10, 2017 and regulations were adopted June 22, 2017. 28 Plain packs have been required from July 1, 2017 at the manufacturer level and July 1 2018 at the retailer level. 29-33 On November 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. 34
Ireland – Plain packaging legislation was enacted March 10, 2015, 35-38 amended February 16, 2017. 39 Packs have been required to be plain since September 30, 2017 at manufacturer level and September 30, 2018 at the retailer level. 40
Cook Islands – Plain packaging in practice; packages same as in New Zealand, since June 2018 3
Monaco – Plain packaging in practice; packages same as in France, since January 2017 3
Thailand – A Thailand government representative stated that plain packaging was under consideration in November 2015. 5, 43 An Act containing regulatory authority to require plain packaging was gazetted April 2, 2017 and came into effect on July 4, 2017. 5, 44 The necessary regulations were approved by the Public Health Ministry on November 14, 2018. 45 All tobacco products were required to comply with the legislation by September 2019. 46
Uruguay – Uruguay’s President stated on November 24, 2015 and reiterated on Jul 8, 2016 that plain packaging was being considered. 47, 48 A Philip Morris legal claim under a bilateral Switzerland-Uruguay investment agreement was dismissed on July 8, 2016, regarding significant packaging restrictions (though not plain packaging). 49 Subsequently, on July 13, 2016, the Health Minister stated that a plain packaging law was being developed and would be implemented in 2017. 50 A Government bill providing enabling authority to require plain packaging was introduced in the Senate November 6, 2017 and referred to the Public Health Committee November 7, 2017. 51, 52 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. 53
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 17 th 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 May 1, 2019 and retailers until January 1, 2020. 7, 42
Slovenia – Act adopted February 15, 2017 requires plain packaging effective January 1, 2020, and required the Minister of Health to adopt a plain packaging regulation by September 8, 2017. 54, 55 The laws were subsequently adopted April 2019, for implementation January 1, 2020. 56
Turkey – Plain packaging was included in the Government’s national action plan for 2015-2018. 57 In August, 2016, the Health Minister stated that plain packaging was under consideration. 58 On Feb. 9, 2017, he stated ‘we have completed preparations for the introduction of plain packaging’. 59 A plain packaging bill was put to the Turkish Parliament on 30th October 2018 60 and following discussions in November 61 on 5 th December 2018, Turkey introduced new plain packaging rules for tobacco, via Law Number 7151. 62 Detailed regulation were adopted on March 1, 2019 which required plain packaging to be implemented at the manufacturer level by July 5th, 2019 and at the retailer level by January 5th, 2020. 63 On June 27th, 2019 the regulations were amended to postpone the implementation at the manufacturer level to December 5th, 2019. 64
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 came into force on January 8 th, 2020. 65
Canada – Plain packaging was recommended in 1994 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. 66 The Liberal Government elected October 19, 2015 committed in electoral platform to implement plain packaging. 67 On November 13, 2015, the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Minister of Health included plain packaging as a ‘top priority’. 68 On May 31, 2016, Health Minister Jane Philpott launched a public consultation ending August 31, 2016. 69, 70 A government bill, Bill S-5, to elaborate on regulatory authority for plain packaging was approved by the Senate on June 1, 2017, received first reading in the House of Commons on June 15, 2017 71 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. 72
Singapore – On Dec. 29, 2015, Singapore launched a public consultation on plain packaging ending March 29, 2016. 73, 74 On March 9, 2017, the Senior Minister of State for Health stated that a further public consultation would be held in 2017. 8 On February 4, 2018, Singapore launched a public consultation ending March 16, 2018. 8, 75 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. 76 On July 1 st, 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. 77
Belgium – The Public Health Minister announced April 9, 2016 that Belgium was to have plain packaging by 2019. 5, 78 He announced September 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 1 st January 2020. Retailers had 12 months (until 31 December 2020) to sell their remaining old stock. 79, 80
Netherlands – Plain packaging was implemented in the Netherlands on the 1 st 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 were able to sell existing stock until October 1 st 2021, while new products must have plain packaging. For other products, such as cigars and e-cigarettes, plain packaging was required from 1 January 2022. 81
Hungary – On Aug 16, 2016, Hungary adopted a Decree to require plain packaging. New brands registered after Apr 30, 2016 and placed on the market from August 20, 2016 had to be sold in retail in plain packs. Brands that were registered after April 2016 but were already on the market prior to August 2016 had until May 20, 2018 to be sold at retail in plain packs. The implementation date of plain packaging for brands that existed before April 2016 was originally scheduled for May 20 th, 2019, but was postponed to January 1 st, 2022. 82-85
Denmark – On the 12 th 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 1 st 2021, meanwhile retailers are able to sell existing stock until April 1 st 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. 86, 87
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 30 th 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 31 st, 2023) to sell other tobacco stock (e.g. cigars and cigarillos). 90-92
Laws adopted and pending implementation
Plain packaging legislation has been adopted and is pending implementation at the retail level in Georgia (from Dec 2022), Myanmar (from April 2023), Mauritius (from March 2023), Finland (from May 2023) and Armenia (from Jan 2024).
Georgia – Legislation was adopted on May 30, 2017 with regulatory authority to require plain packaging . 93 In July 2017, an amendment was published, that postponed implementation until December 31, 2022. On May 16, 2022 the Georgian government approved Technical Regulations on Standardization of Tobacco Products and their Packaging for Sale in Georgia (Resolution No. 257), to come into effect December 31, 2022. 94
Mauritius – On May 20, 2022, the Cabinet of the Republic of Mauritius approved tobacco product regulations which included introducing plain packaging restrictions on tobacco products.The plain packaging restrictions are scheduled to come into effect from December 31, 2022 at the manufacturer level and from March 1, 2023 at the retail level. 99
Myanmar – On the October 12, 2021, Myanmar’s Ministry of Health announced the adoption of plain packaging for tobacco products. 88 In April 2022, an amendment was published, that postponed implementation to January 1, 2023 at the manufacturers level and April 1, 2023 at the retail level. 95
Finland – Plain packaging was included in the Finnish Government national action plan on tobacco (June 2014) as a planned measure. 5 On the 16th of March, 2022 the Finnish Parliament approved a bill amending the Finnish Tobacco Act. The amendments include the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products from May 2023. 96
Armenia – Plain packaging legislation was adopted on February 13, 2020, and is scheduled to come into effect January 1, 2024. 97
Laws adopted but not yet in force
Plain packaging legislation has been adopted in Côte d'Ivoire and Romania.
Côte d'Ivoire – On July 23, 2019, the National Assembly adopted Law No 2019-676 Concerning Tobacco Control which provided authorisation to the government to adopt regulations requiring plain packaging. 97 On January 26, 2022, the Council of Minsters adopted a decree with detailed rules for the introduction of plain packaging, though further regulations around pack colour and implementation dates are still required. 7 , 98
Romania – A law adopted November 4, 2016 includes a provision authorizing government to adopt decision requiring plain packaging 100 but regulations have so far not been adopted.
Legislation being considered by Parliaments
Plain packaging legislation is drafted and before Parliaments in Brasil, Costa Rica, 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. 5
Chile – A Bill was approved by Senate, July 9, 2015, and forwarded to House of Deputies. 101 This was approved by the House Health Committee January 22 2018. However it was rejected by the House Agricultural Committee in December 2021.The bill was then passed back to the Chamber of Deputies, which passed the bill on to the Health Committee for further consideration. 3
Costa Rica – A Bill that included provisions for standardized packaging was introduced in March 2021. 7 The Bill was defended in a hearing held in the Social Matters Commission of the National Assembly on March 23, 2022. 102
Ecuador – A Bill for plain packaging was introduced to the National Assembly on August 3, 2016 and was assigned to the health committee. 5
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. 5
South Africa – The South African Health Minister stated July 24, 2014 that he wanted to implement plain packaging, 8 and stated March 18, 2015 103 and May 31, 2016 104 that legislation will be introduced in Parliament. In November, 2017, the Health Minister stated a draft bill would be submitted to Cabinet in early 2018. 105 A bill was published May 9, 2018 with consultation period ending August 9, 2018. The Bill contained regulatory authority for introduction of plain packaging. 76
Plain packaging under formal government consideration
Plain packaging legislation is or has been under formal consideration in Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Taiwan.
Spain – On March 11, 2021 the Spanish Minister of Health announced that a comprehensive tobacco prevention and control plan was being developed that would include plain packaging. 106
Sri Lanka – On November 7, 2016, the Sri Lankan President stated that Minister of Health is proposing to introduce plain packaging “in the near future.” 107 , 108 On April 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. 5
Taiwan – On February 13, 2017, the Taiwanese Government provided notification of a draft bill containing regulatory authority to require plain packaging. 109
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 110 Botswana, 111 Gambia, Kenya, 112 Malaysia, Nepal, and the United Arab Emirates.
Botswana – On May 21, 2016, the Minister of Health announced government intentions to introduce plain packaging. 5
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. 5
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. 5
Nepal – On May 8, 2017, Minister of Health announced that Nepal would have plain packaging by 2018. 113-115
United Arab Emirates –The Ministry of Health announced in February 2014 that it intended to introduce legislation that would include plain packaging. 5
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. 116
European Union – The 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. 117-119
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