Australia ushers in world’s toughest tobacco laws and Scotland may be next
Australia’s highest court has upheld the world’s toughest law on cigarette promotion, banning tobacco company logos on cigarette packets.
Graphic pictures illustrating the harmful effect of tobacco, including cancer-riddled mouths, blinded eyeballs and sick children, will adorn packets after the Australian High Court rejected a challenge from tobacco companies.
Tobacco companies argued that the value of their trademarks will be destroyed if they are no longer able to display their distinctive colours, brand designs and logos on packs of cigarettes.
The ruling comes as Scotland is considering introducing similar measures to discourage people from smoking.
Scottish ministers have said more must be done to reduce smoking. They are examining the responses to a consultation that considered forcing packets to be plain and free of branding.
The ruling was welcomed by Scottish anti-smoking campaigners. Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said: “The tobacco companies know that removing the fancy branding from their products will make tobacco less attractive to young people and undermine their ability to recruit new generations of smokers.
“The argument for plain packaging has been won, both in Australia and in the UK. The tobacco industry should stop putting profits ahead of public health and let governments get on with implementing legitimate measures that protect children and help people lead healthier lives.”
The Australian government has urged other countries to follow its example. From December, Australian packets will come in a drab shade of olive and feature dire health warnings and graphic photographs of smoking’s health effects.
“Many other countries around the world … will take heart from the success of this decision today,” said Attorney General Nicola Roxon.
“Governments can take on big tobacco and win, and it’s worth countries looking again at what the next appropriate step is for them.” British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International are worried the law will set a global precedent that could slash billions of dollars from brand values. They challenged the new rules on the grounds that they violate intellectual property rights and devalue trademarks.
The cigarette makers argued that the government would unfairly benefit from the law by using cigarette packs as a platform to promote its own message, without compensating the tobacco companies.
Australia’s constitution says the government can only acquire the property of others on “just terms”.
The court also ordered the tobacco companies to pay the government’s legal fees. The court will not publish the reasons for its judgment until later this year.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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