The owners of 38 outlets are to be taken to court for selling cigarette packets which did not carry pictorial health warnings, the Environmental Health Directorate said today.
It issued a statement after the GRTU filed a judial protest saying that retailers should be able to sell stocks which they had legally acquired.
The directorate explained that evidence from countries where pictorial warnings had already been introduced showed that images had a greater impact than text warnings alone.
In Malta, consultation meetings with stakeholders were held on December 18, 2008 and September 11, 2009 but the GRTU (which represents retailers) did not attend, despite having been invited.
A legal notice on pictorial health warnings was issued on October 27, 2009 in line with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and a decision taken by the European Commission on September 5, 2003.
The directorate explained that the legal notice was meant to come into force 18 months after publication in case of cigarette packaging, and 24 months in case of other tobacco packages, giving ample time for retailers and traders to produce new packaging and use up all existing stock.
Nonetheless, during April 2011, market surveillance indicated that various outlets were not in compliance. A warning was issued to all retailers that non-compliant stock should be removed by June 22, 2011, thus allowing an extension of two months.
The GRTU were also informed of this extension directly by means of an email. Notwithstanding all above communications GRTU never approached the Directorate with any comments, objections or suggestions.
Enforcement was initiated by the Health Inspectorate on June 27. To date, 783 inspections of retail outlets have been carried out.
The directorate said 38 outlets were found to be selling cigarettes packets in breach of this legal notice. The cigarette packets were sealed and the operators will be taken to court.