Australia to ban logos on cigarette packets

Australia is poised to introduce the world's harshest anti-smoking laws, with tobacco companies forced to sell cigarettes in plain packets resembling prescription drug packs.

The move, expected to be announced today by the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, will strip packets of all logos, colourful imagery and promotional text, which have been shown to reduce the effectiveness of health warnings. Only the brand name will appear, in a generic font, along with the government health warning.

The legislation, due to take effect from 2012, is intended to make cigarettes less appealing, particularly to young people, and to cut the number of smoking-related deaths. However, it is bitterly opposed by the tobacco industry, which has vowed to challenge it in the courts.

British American Tobacco, which controls 42 per cent of the A$8.3bn (£5bn) Australian market, told The Sydney Morning Herald it would "take every action necessary to protect ... its right to compete as a legitimate commercial business selling a legal product".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended a move to plain packaging, a call echoed last year by the Australian government's Preventative Health Taskforce. The idea has also been seriously mooted in Britain, Canada and New Zealand. But until now governments have hesitated to act, fearing they might contravene international laws on free trade and intellectual property rights.

In Australia, a free-market think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, warned this week that forcing companies to remove their trademarks from products was equivalent to compulsorily acquiring property. It said that, under the Australian constitution, the government would be obliged to pay the industry A$3.4bn in compensation.

But Jonathan Liberman, senior legal policy adviser to the International Union Against Cancer, told ABC radio: "We're really confident Australia wouldn't be in breach of any international legal obligations." He added, in a reference to the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: "On the contrary, we would see this as Australia showing international leadership in implementing obligations under international law."

Australia has long been at the forefront of the war on tobacco. In some states, smoking has been illegal in indoor public places since 1999, and since 2004 cigarettes have been banned from popular Sydney beaches including Bondi. Cigarette packets feature graphic health warnings that include images of diseased lungs and gangrenous limbs.

Smoking-related illnesses kill more than 15,000 Australians every year, and smoking has been identified as the largest preventable cause of death and disease. Tough restrictions on tobacco advertising have reduced the proportion of smokers from 30.5 per cent of over-14s in 1988 to 16.6 per cent in 2007.

The Labor government wants to cut smoking rates to below 10 per cent by 2018. It reportedly plans to test a variety of plain packets in order to identify the least appealing design.

Clearly rattled, the tobacco giant Philip Morris has set up a website outlining alleged problems associated with plain packaging and claiming that the move will not reduce smoking.

George Williams, one of Australia's leading constitutional law experts, said he doubted that the tobacco companies would succeed in a legal challenge. "Prior High Court authority suggests they would see this as regulating the use of intellectual property ... [not] acquiring that intellectual property," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines