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 931.

    Feeling so good to have a say about smoking and nothing else matters.

    Telling someone what is good for them is like the story of a fat man who orders a hot dog for lunch but the waitress gave him a peanut butter sandwich, he got sick and never had another smoke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 930.

    Without disregard to those who smoke, but smoking is just like putting a pistol against your lung and pulling the trigger, but this time your die gradually instead of instantly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 929.

    Cigarettes! " strike them up; they strike you down"!

  • rate this

    Comment number 928.

    This is another nail in the coffin of personal freedom.

    Not to worry though, everyone will still die at some point in their lives, so they will not have saved any lives and, by their own reckoning, increased the costs of health and pensions.

    Why are govts so stupid? And so bigoted towards smokers?

    If you don't like it, don't do it; if you do, do:-)

    Oh well, alcohol next and it's already began

  • rate this

    Comment number 927.

    I grew up in Australia in the 1960s, in a rural area, where safety did not have a high priority in any area of life. I started smoking when I was 7, and then regularly from 12. Good on Australia for taking on the tobacco giants. This new policy does not stopping anyone from smoking, it just makes the health implications of the habit plain and obvious. It's a kindness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 926.

    If campaigning against the danger of smoke doesn't deter people, nothing else will. As far as I'm concerned, a total ban on cigarettes is the only way out. Enforce it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 925.

    Ah! The multifaceted politician strikes again. Quite happy to collect millions in tax on cigarettes, yet at the same time passing legislation that DE-criminalizes marijuana, which is twice as carcinogenic as tobacco. Worried about the children they say. Then they should be worried about ecstasy, crack and the plethora of drugs that are on the street targeted at children. These are insidious!

  • rate this

    Comment number 924.

    899. Gaz the Manc
    >>>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%

    Not really, since you've decided to stop playing Russian Roulette with your health/life (well done BTW) its less likely I'll have to fund the care during your painful and protracted demise. Good on yer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 923.

    Have you noticed that gov'ts always find it easier to legislate law abiding people and in doing so convince themselves they are actually doing something!!!

    Don't smoke, don't drink alcohol (even though its popular and advertised everywhere), don't eat fatty foods (even though McD was Olympic fast food outlet), and the list goes on.

    Tune in, turn on & drop out .... who said that, aah yes, Leary!

  • rate this

    Comment number 922.

    gotta love the aussies no nonsense approach to things, pity our spineless govts past and present cant do similar, drink driving needs tackling too, show the irresponsible the deceased victims, might make some of them think

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    The idea it will increase fakes is a fiasco.

    The value of these, especially in Australia, at $17 a packet (£12), means it is worthwhile making a convincing fake of any branded packet you want.

    The new packets may in fact be even harder, as the gruesome pictures will be ever changing, and smokers will more likely check more closely for fakes than they do now.

    So that's a fatuous argument!

  • rate this

    Comment number 920.

    it is quite appealing to know the Australians have taken this wonderful step to combat the misuse and attractiveness these cigars packs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    Thailand introduced packets like these 5 years ago. So Australia is not the first country in the world to do so!

  • rate this

    Comment number 918.


    Gaz the Manc

    Well if you & fellow smokers go on, you'll cost the tax-man more in if you gave up, regards what it will cost the NHS.
    Yep. Smokers pay much more in than it costs to look after them while they have smoking diseases.

    No need to pay their pensions either.

    If you want to be cynical, you would encourage smoking, especially to scroungers, just to get rid of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    Maybe the problem is that simply covering the packaging with revolting images is not enough. Maybe they should also force all smokers to wear a little yellow star on their chests so we can all shun them more efficiently. Then we should do it to the fatties, then the alcoholics, then the non twit users.. (first they came for the Jews, then they came for the trade unionists, then..) BTW not a smoker

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    There are many ways to ruin your health and the health of others. But is it wrong to prioritise resources to tackle perhaps the most pernicious? Alcohol related deaths are on the increase too but the next big priority for me has to be obesity its consequences (late-onset diabetes, heart disease, etc). There are powerful industries involved there too that won't give up without a big fight!

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    This is not a man made product, god made it so it is free for all that wants to smoke and they should have the right to do it.

    But this law is about money and who is gonna make a lot of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    Why should changing the design of cigarette packets increase the black market? This is a scare being used by the cigarette manufacturers and is only designed to protect their share prices as it could cause their business names to be useless and their share price will drop, which it actually should. If the black market people can copy their current packets there is not difference with new designs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    903. RAB

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


    Don’t understate it!

    You could crash into a radio beacon at Heathrow, cause a 747 to lose contact with the tower, & it could crash into the Russian embassy, causing full nuclear war. All because? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

    Oh come back smokers please!

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    To those that object to me smoking on the grounds I'm a burden on the public purse. Is there anything else you'd rather I didn't do?

    I'd opt out of the NHS only the inland revenue say that's just not an option.

    I assume that you eat more healthily man me and do more exercise of course. I also expect that you don't take any unnecessary risk. God forbid.. Else I'd have to get on my high horse too


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