Big tobacco takes another big hit
Olive green is the latest weapon in the ongoing battle between the Australian government and Big Tobacco.
This week, the Gillard government unveiled aggressive new proposals to eradicate branding on cigarette packaging, and to make it as ugly and plain as possible.
Packets of cigarettes here already carry grotesque pictures of cancer tumours and the carcinogenic effects of nicotine. Now they will be even more prominent, and cover virtually the entire packet - 90% on the back and 75% on the front.
Research has found that dark olive is the most unattractive colour for consumers, and particularly young people.
If the proposals are minted into law, every packet of cigarettes sold in Australia would come in that colour. Brand names would also be a standard size and font, making them as bland and anonymous as possible.
Claiming a global first, the government says these are the most aggressive proposals anywhere in the world.
Certainly, Australia would become the first country to ban logos and brand names. The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, says she wants to take any remaining glamour out of smoking. She also notes that 15,000 Australians continue to die each year from smoking-related illnesses.
Fearing a worldwide knock-on effect, Big Tobacco has opened up its war chest and given $A5m (£m) to the Alliance of Australian Retailers to fight the proposals. They are also calling on smokers, who have already been hit by hefty tax hikes and measures curbing public smoking, to lobby MPs.
The tobacco companies note that they are selling a legal product and that product should carry their own logos and branding. It claims the new proposals infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws.
The government claims it is a killer product and needs to be regulated as heavily as possible.
Big Tobacco is on the wrong side both of history and health trends.
In 1945, 72% of Australian men were smokers and 26% of women. By 2007, those figures had plummeted to 21% and 18%.
As with drinking, Australia has been slipping down the global league tables. In the mid-80s, this country ranked 10th. Now it ranks 41st (Greece tops the table, while Britain ranks 65th).
These proposals are the toughest in the world. Should the Australian government be applauded, or has it gone too far?