West Indian Tobacco (Witco) is introducing new packaging for all its products — Dunhill, Lucky Strike/ Du Maurier, Lucky Strike/ Broadway and Rothman.
The repacking is part of a Ministry of Health mandate to include graphic or pictorial health warnings in accordance with the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Regulations. The current packaging displays written health warnings.
In a media release on Friday, Witco’s managing director Laurent Meffre said there has been no change in the price, taste, or flavour of the products.
He added that the company was pleased to partner with the Tobacco Control Unit to implement these changes and to assist in identifying suspected illicit product in the trade.
Meffre said, “For far too long, the market has been used as a transhipment point for illicitly traded goods, chief among these being cigarettes. We remain confident that the Government has placed focus and resources behind a number of initiatives to support the eradication of illicit trade."
He said the use of graphic health warnings (GHW) in the industry was an example of one such development.
"Over the past year," he noted, "the illicit trade task force established by the Ministry of Trade has yielded positive results and we look forward to future successes.”
Witco, based in Champs Fleurs, employs about 200 people and has recently invested $85 million in enhancing its plant and machinery and upskilling its workforce.
Witco is the local manufacturer and sole regional distributor of and for tobacco products within Caricom.
Another cigarette company, Philip Morris International, also began repackaging in January iwith the aim of meeting the March 24 deadline. PMI brands included L&M and Marlboro, associated electronic devices and accessories.
Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon last year said $30 million in tax evaded on illegal cigarettes constituted about five-ten per cent of the local market.