The Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards has recently revised the mandatory standard for the ‘Labelling of Retail Packages of Cigarettes’ SLNS 27: 1992. The scope of the revised standard SLNS 27: 2016 Specification for Labelling of Tobacco Products includes all tobacco products intended for sale in Saint Lucia. The standard was revised in keeping with Saint Lucia’s commitments to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago are signatories of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and are mandated to implement the Article 11 stipulated in the FCTC. The WHO FCTC was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control contains a host of measures designed to reduce deleterious health and economic impact of tobacco. Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control stipulates that each member state must adopt and implement effective packaging and labelling measures within an agreed period.
Globally, many people are not fully aware of, misunderstand or underestimate the risks for morbidity and premature mortality due to tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. Well-designed health warnings and messages on tobacco product packages have been shown to be a cost-effective means to increase public awareness of the health effects of tobacco use and to be effective in reducing tobacco consumption. Effective health warnings and messages and other tobacco product packaging and labelling measures are key components of a comprehensive, integrated approach to tobacco control.
The revised standard addresses concerns about low levels of consumer awareness of the risk smoking poses, by using a range of health warnings and messages with the goal of increasing the likelihood of impact, as different health warnings and messages resonate with different people. The new health warnings consist of 16 high definition graphic messages covering 50 percent of the top “front package” (principal display) and “back of package” surface. The health warnings and messages addresses different issues related to tobacco use, in addition to harmful health effects and the impact of exposure to tobacco smoke, such as: advice on cessation, the addictive nature of tobacco, adverse economic and social outcomes (for example, annual cost of purchasing tobacco products) and the impact of tobacco use on significant others (premature illness of one’s father due to smoking, for example, or death of a loved one due to exposure to tobacco smoke). The health warnings required by the standard are in the form of pictures to enhance effectiveness. They also have the added benefit of potentially reaching people with low levels of literacy and those who cannot read the language(s) in which the text of the health warning or message is written.
The standard requires the health warnings be rotated. Each form of packaging is assign two sets of warnings. Each set is used exclusively for eight months followed by a four months transition period where the first set is withdrawn and the second set is introduced. After the four months transition period the second set is used exclusively for eight calendar months. The novelty effect of new health warnings and messages is important, as evidence suggests that the impact of health warnings and messages that are repeated tends to decrease over time, whereas changes in health warnings and messages are associated with increased effectiveness. Rotation of health warnings and messages and changes in their layout and design are important to maintain saliency and enhance impact.
The revised standard was notified to the WTO on May 18, 2017 and will be implemented on August 16, 2017. When implemented tobacco products will be monitored through the SLBS border control and market surveillance programs.
The Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards border control activities involves monitoring the quality of commodities for which there exist compulsory standards. The SLBS has been given access to the Customs and Excise Department database – ASYCUDA World, through the inclusion of SLBS Administrations Selectivity. When consignment documents are submitted in ASYCUDA the application identifies consignments with HS Codes of commodities that are regulated and sends these consignments into the SLBS red lane. Once a consignment is routed to the SLBS red lane it cannot be electronically released by Customs until the consignment is re-routed to the SLBS’s green lane by staff members. Typically the Compliance Department would re-route a consignment after the importer or importer’s agent makes arrangements for inspection.
Although the revised standard for Tobacco Products will be implemented in August, the Bureau will continue to use the previous standard when performing inspections based on the date the Bill of Lading was generated. We note that during the hurricane season cargo transport can be interrupted when there is a tropical weather disturbance. To ensure importers are not negatively impacted consignments containing tobacco products with a Bill of Lading dated prior to August 16, 2017 will be assessed with SLNS 27: 1992 Specification for Labelling of Retailed Packages of Cigarettes; while consignments with Bill of Lading dated on or after August 16, 2017 will be assessed with SLNS 27: 2016 Labelling of Tobacco Products.
Noting some importers make use of a bonded warehouse that is under the dual control of Customs and the Importer, inspection of such consignments will be performed jointly with Customs in order to eliminate the need for a Customers Officer to return to permit SLBS inspections. Importers will be required to request an inspection with the inspectorate at least twenty-four hours in advance to permit scheduling.
The Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards market monitoring activities for tobacco products will take into consideration distributors and retailers may have stock of tobacco products labeled in accordance with the old standard when the revised standard is implemented. Retailers will be allowed to deplete their stock with no time limitation.