Ban on cigarette brand logos: Aussie ruling could go global
Plain packets policy more likely to be introduced in Britain after controversial Australian ruling
AUSTRALIA'S highest court has upheld a government law that requires brand colours and logos to be removed from all cigarette packaging. The decision has been welcomed by anti-smoking lobbyists and could persuade other countries to follow suit.
The ruling means that, from 1 December this year, cigarettes in Australia will be sold in olive green packets showing graphic images depicting the consequences of smoking, such as cancer-riddled mouths and blinded eyeballs.
The law was originally passed by the Australian government last year but leading tobacco manufacturers, including British American Tobacco and Philip Morris, challenged it. They claimed the law was unconstitutional and infringed on their intellectual property rights because Australia's constitution says the government can only acquire the property of others on "just terms".
Manufacturers also warned that the move would lead to a drastic cut in their profits and might result in fake products entering the market.
However, the High Court in Canberra has found that the new rules were legal and did not breach trademark rights – although it has withheld its reasons for the judgment until later this year.
The tough new packaging laws are the first of their kind to be implemented in the world and the case has been watched closely from around the globe as other countries, including the UK, Canada, India and New Zealand, consider a similar move in a bid to cut smoking.
The Daily Telegraph predicts an "olive revolution", noting that FTSE shares in British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco fell by 2.2 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively in London this morning.
A British American Tobacco spokesman told The Guardian that it was "disappointed" with the court’s decision but would comply with the law.
Jonathan Liberman, director of the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, told the BBC that the ruling was likely to give a boost to other countries looking to take similar steps. He said: "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."
Politics.co.uk believes today's landmark ruling means Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is "significantly more likely" to seek to introduce plain cigarette packs in the UK.
Lansley has previously said the government wants tobacco companies to have "no business" in Britain. But he is struggling to gather support for the plain packet policy in Parliament. Last month, 50 MPs, including 34 Conservatives, wrote a letter to Lansley expressing their "serious concerns" for the proposal. They argued that there was no reliable evidence that it would have any public health benefits and that it would threaten thousands of jobs in the tobacco industry.
The Institute of Economic Affairs, a UK think-tank, described the proposal as a "draconian attack on the freedom of smokers, retailers and manufacturers".
Bookmakers William Hill are offering 5/1 on a similar law being introduced in Britain before the next general election.