Graphic health warnings mandatory on packaging of tobacco products from Feb, 2019

As of February 18th, 2019, those wishing to manufacture or sell tobacco products in Guyana will be required to include graphic depictions of health warnings on the packaging.

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence has signed and gazetted the 2018 Tobacco Products’ Packaging and Labelling Regulations, which specify that nine months from the date of its entry into force no person “shall manufacture, import, distribute, sell or offer for sale any tobacco product or electronic delivery system other than a tobacco product or electronic delivery system contained in intact packages that meet the packaging and labeling requirements under these regulations.”

The regulations, which comprise the last 24 pages of the Legal Supplement – B of the May 26th, 2018 edition of The Official Gazette, were made under the Tobacco Control Act in exercise of the powers granted to the minister by sections 24, 25 and 46.  They specifically note that the exterior of the packaging of these products is to include, among other things, one of two sets of warnings about the health effects of tobacco use.

“Health Warnings shall be printed on the package itself and not on cellophane, detachable outer packaging or on adhesive labels or attached or affixed by similar means,” Regulation 5 (3) explains.   In fact, the health warnings included in the First and Second Schedule of the Regulations are to be permanently displayed on 60% of both the front and back of each package.  The warnings indicate, among other things, that second hand smoke can cause asthma in children, that using tobacco leads to mouth cancer, stroke, gangrene and impotence. Each message is accompanied by a graphic image of the mentioned disease.

Four warnings are included in each of the sets labelled Set A and Set B. According to the regulations, set A is to be used exclusively for a period of eight months beginning the 1st January of every calendar year ending with an odd number such as 2019. On the 1st September of those calendar years, a transition period from Set A to Set B will begin, during which Set B health warnings shall become more prominent on the market while Set A health warnings are phased out. Set A shall be completely removed from the market by the 31st August of every calendar year ending with an odd number, while Set B will be used exclusively for a period of eight calendar months beginning on the 1st January of every calendar month ending in an even number such as 2020, after which another transition period will begin.

Additionally, packages are required to include a declaration related to constituents and emissions information, specifically stating that “smoke from this product contains extremely addictive nicotine and toxic substances such as tar and carbon monoxide. No safe level of consumption exists for this product.”

This is to appear on one of the side display areas on rectangular packages and adjacent to the health warning on packages of other shapes.

The writing is to be printed in Avant Garde font, Medium BT, upper and lower case type or in an equivalent type with letters being at least 2 mm high in black on a yellow or white background, and in such a manner as to completely fill the display area.

Any violation or contravention of these provisions is an offence with a person being liable on summary conviction to a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for three months while a body corporate/company on conviction is liable for a fine of $9 million.

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