“Plain Package” Cigarette Law
Written by Faith Anderson on November 10, 2011
Australian Government Ready for Proposed Court Battle
Hong Kong-based Phillip Morris Asia Limited, owner of the Australian affiliate Phillip Morris Limited, filed a notice of claim against the government in an Australian court in June, arguing that the new law violates a bilateral investment treaty between Hong Kong and Australia. According to Phillip Morris, the treaty protects companies’ property, including intellectual property like trademarks. The company says that plain packaging significantly reduces the value of the company’s trademark, and other tobacco companies have threatened a court battle for billions of dollars in compensation. Health Minister Nicola Roxon however, said her government was “determined to take away the last method of advertising” for cigarettes in Australia. “We’re not going to be bullied into not taking this action just because tobacco companies say they might fight us in the courts,” Roxon said. “We’re ready for that if they do take legal action.”
Australian Legislation Represents World’s Toughest Laws on Cigarette Packaging
British American Tobacco Australia Ltd., the Australian market leader, warned it would challenge the cigarette “plain package” law in the Australian High Court, and claimed that the government was on “shaky legal ground.” “No other country in the world has implemented plain packaging and there are many good reasons for that,” said spokesman Scott McIntyre. Australia is a relatively small market for tobacco with a smoking rate of only 17%, compared to around 20% of adults in the U.S. who smoke. But tobacco companies are worried that the plain package law could be adopted by countries with more lucrative markets.
The newly implemented warnings and gruesome, full-color images of the side effects of smoking, including gangrenous toes and mouth cancer, would cover 75% of the fronts of cigarette packages according to the legislation. Graphic health warnings currently cover only 30% of packaging. Worldwide, smoking killed more than 100 million people during the 20th Century, according to the World Health Association. The agency projects that ten times that many could die in the 21st Century as a result of smoking. Smoking claims more lives than AIDS, automobile accidents, illegal drugs, legal drugs, murder and suicide combined.