WOULD it stop you from smoking cigarettes if they came in a plain, white pack, plastered with health warnings? Research says “yes”, but smokers in Nelson Mandela Bay say “no”.
With World Anti-Tobacco Day around the corner (May 31), The World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on governments to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products.
Plain packaging would display the brand name but all product names would be displayed in a standard colour and font style, with prominent and graphic health warnings instead of advertising and logos.
Australia was the first country in the world to implement plain packaging four years ago, which has resulted in smoking rates dropping.
New Zealand is following suit by implementing plain, brown packaging, with graphic imagery of the dangers of smoking.
About 44 000 South Africans die due to smoking-related illnesses every year, which is more than the number of people killed on our roads and murdered combined, National Council Against Smoking executive director Dr Yussuf Saloojee said.
“[Brand names] and the current packaging is very attractive to young people, and plain packaging will take away that appeal,” Saloojee said.
“The new packaging will be an educational tool to inform young people because everyone knows [smoking] can cause cancer but the pictures will show them what cancer will do.
“The [current] packaging is the last form of advertising and the plain packaging will take away this ability,” he said.
Despite the statistics or the move to change cigarette packaging, it appeared many Bay residents were still not easily swayed to kick the habit.
Gelvandale resident Michael Bibby, 63, who has smoked for about 30 years, said: “I am addicted to smoking. If the packaging should change, it would not be a deterrent for me. I [suppose] it would help other people to not start smoking but I will only stop if the doctor told me I had lung cancer,” Bibby said.
Catherine Hutton, 46, of Summerstrand, said she believed different packaging would not make much difference. “I don’t think it [warning signs] has an effect. It might make people change to a lighter cigarette, but if you want to smoke, you will.
“I think people are aware of the dangers but it doesn’t really sink in,” Hutton said.
Social smoker Marco O’Reilly, 32, of Salt Lake, said he only smoked on weekends when he enjoyed a drink or two.
“If they implement the plain packaging, there will be no difference. I will still buy my box of cigarettes,” O’Reilly said.
“I have been smoking since I was a teenager and I would smoke every day, but I have cut down now.”
James Malinga, 42, of Central, who has smoked for the past 10 years, said he would not stop should the packaging change.
“I read the warning labels but it doesn’t bother me because I only smoke six cigarettes a day,” he said. “I’m addicted to smoking.” Tobacco is one of the leading preventable causes of heart attacks, lung disease, strokes and death.
With Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s approval, Saloojee said if the move was approved in parliament, it would take about a year for the law to be implemented in South Africa.