Stricter regulation of tobacco packaging introduced

Venezuela

Throughout recent history, the Venezuelan cigarette and tobacco industry has been highly restricted by the government. With regard to advertising activities, the cigarette and tobacco industry is subject to a broad regulatory framework, which includes the following pieces of legislation:

  • the Cigarette and Tobacco Production Tax Law and its rules;
  • Decree No 849, which prohibits televised commercial advertisements for cigarettes; and
  • Resolution No 110 of the Ministry of Health and Social Development, which regulates the packing and packaging of cigarettes.

Recently, the regulatory control over the commercialisation of tobacco products has been tightened even more through measures taken by the government as a result of the active campaign led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding the effects of cigarettes and the health warnings that must be placed on cigarette packs. According to the WHO, those health warnings should be modified every two years to increase awareness among consumers as to the consequences of cigarette smoking.

According to Resolution No 004 (Official Gazette of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela No 408,579 of January 19 2014), which came into force on January 19 2014 and was approved by the Ministry of the Popular Powers for Health (MPPS), the purpose of this rule is to exert greater control over cigarette packs and packaging. According to the MPPS resolution, the health warnings placed on the cigarette packaging must contain images and text specifically established by the Health Ministry. In particular, 70% of the front or back of the package must contain a pre-determined image, while the remaining 30% must contain pre-determined text; the health warning must thus occupy the entire surface of that side of the package. Moreover, 30% of the other large side of the package must be used to place a warning. Likewise, the rules establish that it is mandatory to detail the constituents of the product on an entire outer side panel. This leaves only 9% of the total package surface available for information regarding the brand.

Compared with the abolished Resolution No 110 of the former Ministry of Health and Social Development (Official Gazette of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela No 37,904 of March 23 2004), the main change introduced by the new regulation is the obligation to include a warning text covering 30% of the front or back of the package. In addition, the new resolution introduces the obligation to include new information in the warning text, increasing the number of examples of health risks from 11 to 12 in comparison with the previous resolution, which must be placed on the front or back of the cigarette pack.

Arguably, it is necessary to regulate the advertisement of products posing health risks, such as cigarettes, but there must be a balance between the regulations protecting public health and the consumers' freedom of choice between different products through the media. In this regard, the impact of the new regulation is still to be evaluated and its influence analysed based on a potential decrease in cigarette consumption.

Madeleine Acosta and Ricardo Enrique Antequera, Estudio Antequera Parilli & Rodriguez, Caracas 

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