New Era in Tobacco Products Packaging: Plain Packaging and Limited Trademark Use


The Omnibus Bill Amending Some Laws and Decree-Laws related to Health (“the Bill”) dated 30.10.2018, has been decided by Health, Family, Work and Social Affairs Commission on 09.11.2018 and presented to Turkish Grand National Assembly.

Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 of the Bill amend some articles of The Law on Prevention and Control of Hazards of Tobacco Products dated 26.11.1996 and numbered 4207 (“The Law no. 4207”) and bring new regulations to tobacco market.

Major Proposed Changes

Summary of the major changes proposed for Law no. 4207 is as follows:

  • Use or display of tobacco products or their images in movie theatres or theatres as well as in TV programmes, movies, TV-series, music videos and advertisements is prohibited.
  • The tobacco or tobacco products shall not be allowed for sale within hospitals, universities, stadiums, sports centers, galleries, art centers, opera houses et cetera as well as their premises such as university campuses.
  • Tobacco products shall be offered for sale in closed cabined which cannot be reached or seen by consumers in tobacco sale points.
  • Turkish warnings or messages with illustrations which indicate the damages of tobacco products shall be placed within a special frame and no less than 85% area of the widest two sides of the every type of tobacco packages and hookah bottles.
  • Tobacco products produced in Turkey or imported shall be offered for sale with plain and standardized packages which the mark’s writing style, font, type size, location on the package, the color of the packages, other texts, phrases and shapes are designed in the same way. These rules also apply for tobacco cases which include a few packages together.
  • The trademark shall be written on one side of the package without exceeding 5% area of the side. Trademark logos, symbols or other signs shall not be used on the package.
  • Those who violate these regulations shall be subject to heavy administrative fines and sanctions.
  • All the matters about plain and standardized packages which are designed uniformly will be regulated in one month by the regulation prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry by taking appropriate opinion of the Ministry of Health.
  • The tobacco products which have been produced in Turkey or imported before the date this Article comes into force shall become compatible with the regulations above in seven months.

Bill to Amend Some Laws and Decree-Laws related to Health

Article 25 of the Bill amends Article 3/6 of the Law no. 4207 as stated below and prohibits the use of tobacco products or their images in programs, movies, TV-series, music videos, advertisements, introductory films featured in TV and as well as in movies and advertisements featured in cinema and in works performed in theatres and in public social media platforms and in similar environments.

Tobacco products or their images shall not be used or displayed in programs, movies, TV-series, music videos, advertisements and introductory films featured in TV, in works performed in cinemas or theatres, in public social media platforms and in similar environments.”

The same article of the Bill has also ruled that in places where health, education and training, culture and sport services are provided as well as enterprises within university campus areas the sales of tobacco or tobacco products shall also not be allowed.

Further, with the same regulation, Article 3/13 of the Law no. 4207 has been amended comprehensively. According to the new regulation: “Tobacco products cannot be offered for sale in places where people can reach or see directly. These products have to be offered for sale in closed cabinets which are not visible from inside or outside of the enterprises and their colors, shapes and sizes are determined by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry by taking appropriate opinion of the Ministry of Health.”

First sentences of Article 4/3 of the Law no. 4207 has been changed with Article 26 of the Bill and it regulates that the warnings or messages in Turkish language with illustrations, which are currently placed within a special frame to indicate the damages of the tobacco products, shall be placed no less than 85% area of the widest two sides of the tobacco packages and hookah bottles produced in Turkey or imported, except the base of the hookah bottles, instead of placing them 65% area of the two widest side of the tobacco products or hookah bottles. Also, the Law no. 4207 provided restrictions on the use of the trademarks on the tobacco packages, i.e., trademarks shall be written on one side of the package without exceeding 5% area of the side and logos, symbols or other signs shall not be used on the packages. The sentences below also added to the same sub-article and it became compatible with Article 3:

“Tobacco products produced in Turkey or imported shall be offered for sale with plain and standardized packages which the mark’s writing style, font, type size, location on the package, the color of the packages, other texts, phrases and shapes are designed in the same way. The trademark shall be written on one side of the package without exceeding 5% area of the side. Trademark logos, symbols or other signs shall not be used on the package. These rules shall also apply for tobacco cases which includes a few packages together.”

Article 27 of the Bill has amended former Article 5/8 of the Law no. 4207 as stated below. This regulation states the upper and lower limit of the administrative fine which shall be applied in case of violating Article 13 of the Law no. 4207, in other words violating the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products in a way that people can see directly: “Those who violate the prohibitions in Article 3/13 shall be punished with an administrative fine from five thousand Turkish Liras to twenty thousand Turkish Liras by the local administrative authority.”

Article 27 of the Bill has also made new additions to Article 5/6 about closure penalties to be applied to enterprises and the rule has been changed as stated below: “If the acts requiring the punishments in this Article are repeated once in one year period, the administrative fine shall be increased by one time; in case of second repetition, the administrative fine shall be increased by two times. If the act is repeated for the third time for the same period, the enterprise shall be closed for ten days to a month. After the closure punishment, a closure punishment from 20 days to a month shall be given to each repeated violations in the same period. The amount of administrative fines whose lower and upper limits are determined shall be appreciated according to criteria such as the size of the enterprise, the degree of the impact, nature and severity of the violation depending on where it has happened.”

Lastly, provisional Article 5 has been added to the Law no. 4207:

“Provisional Article 5 – (1) The tobacco products which have been produced in Turkey or imported before the date this Article comes into force shall become compatible with Article 4/3 in seven months.

(2)The regulation which has been stated in Article 4/3 shall be enacted in one month starting from the date this Article comes into force.”

The Rationale of these Regulations

In the rationale of the referred regulation, it was stated that since sociodemographic transformation, rapidly developing technology, continuously changing and increasing social needs and demands necessitate the continuous revision and improvement of each system, it is essential to make the necessary adjustments and changes in the system according to the results obtained in the control phase which is one of the functions of the administration. That is why, tobacco products will be offered for sale in plain and standardized packages to eliminate the tempting features of the marks and packages, and in closed cabinets in a way that people cannot reach or see directly.

Reviews

It is planned with the referred Bill to start applying plain packaging for cigarette and tobacco products which has already been introduced in some countries such as the UK, France, Australia and New Zealand in the recent years. Although the details of it will be determined by the regulation prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, plain packaging limits and prohibits the use of trademark logos and tempting colors on tobacco packages; and it only allows the use of standardized word marks on them. Even in that situation, the trademark will be written on one side of the package without exceeding 5% area of that side. The same matter is applied to tobacco cases which include a few packages together. Also the percent of the area which the Turkish warning and messages with illustrations will be displayed is increased from %65 to %85 for tobacco packages and hookah bottles. The details of plain packaging will be decided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in the implementation regulation which will be released in one month starting from the effective date of the related article. Tobacco products, which have been produced in Turkey or imported before, will become compatible with the matters stated above in seven months.

According to the Bill, tobacco and tobacco products have to be offered for sale in closed cabinets which people cannot reach or see directly in tobacco sale points (package store, grocery store, buffet etc).

Another important change brought by the Bill is the prohibition related to the use or display of tobacco products or their images in works performed in cinemas or theatres, in public social media platforms and in similar environments. Since the situations in the former regulation are not evaluated under the present regulation, this matter is also clarified.

Comprehensive changes will be made in the tobacco market with these regulations, which are expected to pass to the agenda of The Grand National Assembly of Turkey and become law. On the other hand, it is thought that prohibitions related to the use and display of tobacco products or their images in medias such as works performed in cinemas or theatres and in public social media platforms will create discussions.