Postcard from... Sydney


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The Independent Online

Undeterred by draconian measures to stub-out smoking Down Under, Australia's tobacco industry has hit back at plans to force manufactures to introduce plain – and for some reason, dark olive green – packaging. In what the government condemned as a “sick joke,” Imperial Tobacco has introduced a final branded packet of its Peter Stuyvesant brand with one corner ripped open to reveal the exterior of the new packs and the slogan: “It's what's on the inside that counts.”

From 1 December all cigarette packets will be the same drab khaki colour with no allowance for commercial branding. But Imperial Tobacco's last gasp promotion before the new legislation kicks in has infuriated Australia's Health Minister Tanya Plibersek. "The packaging is not illegal but I can tell you it's unprincipled," she declared. "And yes, they're right – it's what's in the pack that counts, and what we used to call them when I was a kid was cancersticks," she added.

Imperial insisted it designed the interim packet to give its customers advance warning of how the product would look in future.

It was also important to point out that the cigarettes inside would "remain unchanged," a spokesman explained.

Australia already boasts some of the strongest anti-tobacco legislation in the world, with shops forced to hide cigarette packets behind screens or concealed under counters. Industry moves to have the plain packaging law thrown out by the Australian High Court have so far failed, though the legislation is still being challenged through the World Trade Organisation.