Producers and importers of tobacco products will be penalised with large fines and additional measures if the packages that contain their products do not carry the required instructions and health warnings, according to a new regulation.
The health warnings must comprise both images and words.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith recently signed a government decree imposing fines and other measures against those violating the law and regulations on tobacco control.
The decree, which was published in the official gazette on March 1, will come into effect 15 days after that date.
First-time and second-time violators will be fined up to 10 million and 20 million kip respectively, according to the decree’s Article 6.
A third and subsequent violations will incur fines of up to 50 million kip for each offence, and product producers and importers may have their business licence revoked. Tobacco products that are found on sale without instructions or health warnings will be confiscated and destroyed.
Failure to provide instructions and health warnings is one of eight offences that violate the rules.
Other actions prohibited in the decree include the advertisement of tobacco products, and smoking in prohibited areas.
No-smoking areas include outdoor public places and indoor areas such as hotels, restaurants, schools, and hospitals.
The operators or owners of smoke-free zones are required to put up no-smoking notices, and will be fined if they do not.
In these instances, the first infringement (not displaying a no-smoking sign) will incur a warning. A second violation will result in a fine of one million kip, while a third or further infringement will incur a fine of 2 million kip.
An official from the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department under the Ministry of Health said anyone wanting a no-smoking sign can get one for free at the department.
People who smoke, including electronic cigarettes and shisha devices, in smoke-free zones will be warned on a first violation. Smokers will be fined 200,000 kip for a second offence and 400,000 kip for a subsequent violation.
Business operators or the owners of venues that allow smoking, including the forms mentioned above, in smoke-free zones will also be fined. A warning will be issued for the first offence and a fine of one million kip imposed for a second. Subsequent violations will be subject to a fine of 5 million kip.
The new decree also bans the advertising of tobacco products. Individuals or businesses that advertise products will be fined 20 million kip and 40 million kip for the first and second infringement respectively. A third or further infringement will incur a fine of up to 80 million kip, as well as the possible loss of a business licence.
Warnings and fines will also be meted out for the sale of tobacco products including cigarettes in no-smoking zones, the sale of products to children, or asking children to sell or buy cigarettes.
Health officials at the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department say that all of these eight activities, which violate the law and regulations on tobacco control, are common occurrences.
They hoped that the harsh penalties stipulated in the new decree would reduce the number of violations.
Smoking not only harms the health of smokers themselves, but also that of people nearby.
Statistics show that the global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of whom more than 600,000 are non-smokers who die after years of breathing second-hand smoke.
In Laos, an average of 4,807 people die from tobacco-related illnesses each year, meaning 13 people die every day from such conditions.