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 911.

    Gaz the Manc

    Well if you & your fellow smokers go on smoking; you'll cost the tax-man more in time than if you gave up, regards what it will cost the NHS.

    PS. I smoked about 5 cigarettes in my life & I might as well have swallowed a bucked of chemicals with a smoking chimney. Ugh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    903. RAB

    ...anyone can get drunk & kill a 5 in a car crash in a matter of seconds & yet we don't see pictures of car crashes on bottles of alcohol or pictures of liver disease.

    Something is unbalanced in Australian Government !



    Killing 5 people in a car crash is not an inevitable consequence of a glass of wine.

    Bad health after a lifetime of smoking is!

    It also affects IQ.

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    I find the tobacco industry's claim that 'plain' packaging is going to make things easy for counterfeiters incredibly pathetic and weak minded. The new brand-less packs are going to covered with graphic warnings, which could be designed to make things difficult for counterfeiters. And the tobacco industry should pay for this, if they're that concerned about it. Well done, Australia!

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    899.Gaz the Manc
    If no-one was smoking any more there would be a LOT fewer people with COPD and other smoking related diseases, the treatment of which puts an enormous financial burden on the taxpayer. The net effect of people stopping smoking is unlikely to be a significant tax hike, just a healthier nation. Then maybe we can start tackling diabetes and obesity and the industries behind those :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    899. Gaz the Manc
    Having read all the comments from many non smokers i decided to quit smoking, now who's for 33% tax , not 20%, thats what it will cost us



    The tax take from cigs is ~£10bn. i.e ~ 1.4% of all tax. It would hardly make any difference to income tax, let alone what you claim!

    And I doubt you have read all the comments either.

    So that's 2 mis-statements in one para!

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    We know big Tobacco spends a lot on advertising, but somehow the message that smoking kills is out there.

    You don't spend $10.5 Billion a year to market something that people really need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    Ban Smoking or raise taxes on them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Make it illegal to purchase tobacco without a smoker's permit. These could be issued at post offices for a nominal fee on production of photo ID. The extra bureaucratic hurdle would be enough to stop casual smokers starting and would probably also of huge benefit to people trying to quit: a moment of weakness is one thing, but making a conscious decision to go into town and queue quite another!

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    ...anyone can get drunk and kill a family of 5 in a car crash in a matter of seconds and yet we don't see pictures of car crashes on bottles of alcohol or pictures of liver disease.
    So something is unbalanced in Australian Government !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    @ 610.la_verita " smokers should sign a waiver saying that when their health does deteriorate due to smoking they will not be treated for free on the NHS for smoking related health issues" Hate to tell that without the 10billion tax contribution to the NHS, no one will get treatment as there will be no NHS as we now know it

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    Remember this, never judge a book by it's cover or you will miss something that can be wonderful and enjoyable.

    So try it before you knock it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    898 Wideboy - "Will they force macdonalds to put a picture of a forty stone man unable to get off the bed, with sores on his/her body or maybe a picture of a blocked toilet?"
    Hopefully the OZ fag decision brings your above scenario that much nearer.
    You have to start somewhere and a good start has been made.

  • 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 898.

    Will they force macdonalds to put a picture of a forty stone man unable to get off the bed, with sores on his/her body or maybe a picture of a blocked toilet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    617echtdamper is right WELL DONE OZ -corporations need to be checked-this is no imposition on individual smoking citizens.
    But Blackpool Corporation's decision to ban smokers from parks as children might copy them is real bully boy stuff.
    As children are everywhere smokers would be outlawed evrywhere if you follow this Stalinism.
    Same 'Tessa Jowell' mentality that wants to ban prostitution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    OMG is this guy a SMOKER, that's it i will never speak to him again, what a drain on the tax payer he is paying all that tax on his cigs just to fund a free health service for us all, look at the sums you fool the NHS if free because of our friend featured here and his many friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    I don't understand why governments make these silly laws instead of banning tobacco. Could it be that they want the tax revenue while denying shared culpability for the deaths caused by the business?

  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    Can the anti-smoking zealots give it a rest. Quite reasonable restrictions in pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres etc have been put in place.

    It seems that some are still not satisfied and wish to push the boundaries further. If any other section of society were targeted to this extent some civil liberties group would be up in arms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.

    860 Curious argument, I last heard it from the mouth of BATs spokesman word for word, hope they are paying you well for propogating it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    Look at the face of the man above?

    The caption says ' A smoker's going to smoke regardless of what the package says'.

    Well, he obviously thinks so. Where are his friends to tell him he looks like a smoker... he looks ill!


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