Australia cigarette plain packaging law upheld by court


Australia's new cigarette packaging rules have put big manufacturers against the government

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Australia's highest court has upheld a new government law on mandatory packaging for cigarettes that removes brand colours and logos from packaging.

The law requires cigarettes to be sold in olive green packets, with graphic images warning of the consequences of smoking.

Leading global tobacco manufacturers, including British American Tobacco and Philip Morris, had challenged the law.

The new packaging rules are scheduled to be implemented from 1 December 2012.

"At least a majority of the court is of the opinion that the Act is not contrary to (Australia's constitution)," the court said in a brief statement.

The full judgement is expected to be published on a later date.

'Still a bad law'

The law was passed by the government last year. Authorities have said that plain packaging of cigarettes will help reduce the number of smokers in the country.

An example of what cigarette packets in Australia may look like Australian cigarette packets may soon look like this

However, tobacco manufacturers have argued that removing their brand names and company colours from packets will lead to a drastic cut in profits.

They have also warned that it may result in fake products entering the market.

"It's still a bad law that will only benefit organised crime groups which sell illegal tobacco on our streets," said Scott McIntyre, spokesman for British American Tobacco (BAT) Australia.

Sonia Stewart, spokesperson for Imperial Tobacco, added that "the legislation will make the counterfeiters' job both cheaper and easier by mandating exactly how a pack must look".

Cigarette manufacturers have also claimed that the law is unconstitutional and infringes on their intellectual property rights by banning the use of brands and trademarks.

However, BAT's Mr McIntyre said the firms will comply with the new rules.

"Even though we believe the government has taken our property from us, we'll ensure our products comply with the plain packaging requirements and implementation dates."

'Deluge of legislation'

Australia's new tough packaging laws are the first of their kind to be implemented in the world.

However, many other countries such as New Zealand, India, the UK and even some states in the US have been contemplating taking similar measures in a bid to reduce the number of smokers.

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Whilst Australia might be a relatively small cigarette market, tobacco companies know that losing here could lead to a deluge of legislation elsewhere in their really big markets”

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As a result, the case between the government and the cigarette makers was being watched closely all across the globe.

Jonathan Liberman, director of the McCabe Center for Law and Cancer, said the ruling was likely to give a boost to other countries looking to take similar steps.

"It shows to everybody that the only way to deal with the tobacco industry's claims, sabre rattling and legal threats is to stare them down in court," he said.

The BBC's Sydney correspondent Duncan Kennedy said the decision may have global ramifications for the cigarette makers.

"Whilst Australia might be a relatively small cigarette market, tobacco companies know that losing here could lead to a deluge of legislation elsewhere in their really big markets."

"A smoker's going to smoke regardless of what the package says"


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  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    Having read through all the comments on here from the many non smokers i have decided to quit smoking, who's up for paying 33% income tax instead of 20%, thats what it will cost us, but hey at least no one will be smoking anymore, yeah lets stop all those "nicotine druggies" they don't put anything into the economy do they. !!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    Whatever side of the fence you sit on, most children start smoking because it's taboo...not because of the brand or colour of packaging.

    This whole argument continues to embed the 'wrongness' of smoking which further encourages children, those testing boundaries, to participate.

    A similar argument surrounds them being locked away in just encourages those who want to rebel!

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    I am an ex-smoker and was on up to 60 a day until a well meaning friend who worked in a pathology lab showed me a cancerous lung that had been removed from a smoker. In my opinion if cigarettes must be sold it should be in packets with sickeningly graphic pictures and on prescription only. Smokers are, after all drug addicts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    I have managed to quit smoking and am in no way defending it, but I have to correct you about the cost of smokers to the UK Treasury.

    Smokers cost the NHS £1.7 billion/year, but this is far outweighed by Tax on tobacco generating approximately £10 billion/year (10% of entire NHS budget!). And not forgetting on average smokers die 5 years younger so there are savings in pension payouts too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    Lots of small changes are being made to erode the pleasure of smoking - not being able to smoke in public, not being able to smoke in pubs etc....I'm an ex smoker now thanks to these measures. It is more effective than educaiton, preaching or non smokers making supercilious smug comments, or going on about fast food and alcohol. Anything that achieves a non smoking world is a good thing.


Comments 5 of 13


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