As we celebrate ten years of tobacco plain packaging laws in Australia, an ever-increasing number of countries around the world are looking to introduce and enforce similar laws.
One of these regions is the Eastern Mediterranean, and earlier this month the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer co-hosted a virtual workshop to bring government officials and civil society representatives together to focus on plain packaging.
Along with the World Health Organization (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO), and the Secretariat to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) the Legal Aspects of Plain (Standardised) Packaging in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region workshop hosted more than 50 participants from 13 parties.
The workshop provided an opportunity to share experiences in tobacco control laws, learn from country case studies where plain or standardised packaging has been introduced, and examine various elements of effective plain packaging laws.
The workshop covered the evidence based for plain packaging, key provisions in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, international trade and investment law and multisectoral coordination, and case studies on the implementation of the plain packaging in the UK, Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Norway. The curriculum was entirely tailored for participants and seeks to address common issues and questions from the region regarding successful implementation of plain packaging, drawing on the McCabe Centre’s work as a WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub on legal challenges to WHO FCTC implementation, the experiences of WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region Office and other WHO colleagues.
Dr Asmus Hammerich, WHO EMRO Director of UHC/Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health opened the workshop, encouraging countries in the region to progress plain packaging in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the WHO FCTC Convention Secretariat also highlighted that plain packaging is a key element of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control, and is consistent with demand reduction measures in the WHO FCTC. Dr Fatimah El-Awa, Regional Advisor for Tobacco Free Initiative at WHO EMRO also gave an opening presentation setting the context for plain packaging in the region.
For the workshop sessions, presenters from the McCabe Centre, WHO EMRO, and the Convention Secretariat were joined by a wide network of guest speakers from WHO headquarters, civil society, alumni of the McCabe Centre’s International Legal Training Program and country representatives.
The workshop concluded with a session on support available to implement tobacco control laws, with participants introduced to the McCabe Centre’s training and capacity building programs, the resources available on the designated Knowledge Hub websites, and resources available via WHO and the WHO FCTC Secretariat. All participants were encouraged to continue efforts towards plain packaging in the region
The workshop follows a successful workshop on Legal Aspects of WHO FCTC Implementation in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region organised by the same collaborators held in December 2021.