The Ministry of Health (MOH) is seeking public feedback on the standardised packaging of tobacco products, including increasing the size of graphic health warnings by 25 per cent, in a six-week consultation exercise beginning today.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry said tobacco use continues to be a significant public health concern.

It noted that in recent years, the decline in smoking rates has slowed and become harder to sustain.

Smoking rates have fluctuated between 12 and 14 per cent in the past 10 years, with "no clear pattern of continuous decline", the ministry said.

There also remains a sizeable proportion of men - more than one in five - who smoke daily.

If the standardised packaging proposal is adopted, it will form part of the Republic's strategy towards becoming a tobacco-free society, the ministry added.

Key elements of the proposal include regulating the promotional aspects of tobacco packaging, standardising tobacco packaging elements and increasing the size of graphic health warnings on the packaging from 50 per cent to 75 per cent.

Standardised packaging, also known as plain packaging, refers to the regulation of promotional aspects of tobacco packaging such as trademarks, logos, colour schemes and imagery. As part of the measure, such packaging is often required to incorporate prominent mandatory health warnings.

According to the Government's preliminary assessment, the standardised packaging proposal is expected to be effective in reducing the attractiveness of tobacco products, eliminate the effects of the packaging as a form of advertisement, and better inform the public of the risks associated with tobacco use.

The public consultation will take place from today until March 16.

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