Big Tobacco Loses: Australia Upholds World’s Toughest Law on Cigarette Packaging – Watch It Go Global
Stephen Cook: See how everything’s changing… now it’s Big Tobacco’s turn. We all know nicotine is addictive. We all know it causes a myriad of diseases, the most notably cancer and emphysema. We all know the Big Tobacco companies have lied to the world for years.
Today in Australia, a landmark case whereby all cigarettes can only be sold in plain brown paper packaging went to the High Court – and Big Tobacco lost. More than 77% of Australians supported this decision, which will change the way cigarettes are sold worldwide. It has been hailed as a major decision for global health.
I know we have freewill – but wouldn’t it be better for everyone if they simply banned the making of them altogether! (sorry, smokers )
Two perspectives below – one from London and one from Australia.
London: Australia Upholds World’s Toughest Law on Cigarette Packaging
By Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney, The Telegraph UK – August 15 2012
Tobacco giants have lost their bid to stop Australia from introducing plain packaging for cigarettes in a landmark case that paves the way for other countries including Britain to adopt tough anti-smoking measures.
Under laws that come into effect this December, Australia will become the world’s first country to require cigarettes to be sold in drab olive packets with graphic health warnings and no logos. The laws are tipped to trigger an “olive revolution”, with similar measures being considered in Britain, Canada, New Zealand, China, France, India, South Africa, Norway and Uruguay.
Australia’s High Court today knocked back a challenge by British American tobacco, Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco. The companies claimed the laws unlawfully extinguished the value of their trademarks without providing compensation. The court has not yet released its reasons but published its finding yesterday and awarded costs against the tobacco companies.
The decision was hailed by the Gillard Government as a “massive victory” which would save lives and help reduce smoking rates. It clears the way for the government to ban all brand marks and logos on cigarette packets from December 1. The packets will feature large graphic health warnings while the brand name will be written in a small generic font.
“This is good news for every Australian parent who worries about their child picking up an addictive and deadly habit,” said the Attorney-General, Ms Nicola Roxon.
“This will only improve the government’s ability to defend strongly any actions that are taken in international forums.”
The Health Minister, Ms Tanya Plibersek, said: “For anyone who has lost someone to smoking, this one is for you.”
But British American Tobacco said there was no evidence that plain packaging prevents people from smoking and called for a review of the laws.
“What we’re calling for now is the Government to do a review in 12 months’ time,” said a spokesman, Mr Scott McIntyre.
The tobacco firms have not given up the fight against the laws, which are being challenged in two separate cases. Phillip Morris Asia is suing Australia for a breach of an investment treaty with Hong Kong. Ukraine, Honduras and the Dominican Republic have taken a case to the World Trade Organisation, claiming the legislation breaches Australia’s commitment under global trade rules.
A spokesman for Phillip Morris, Mr Chris Argent, said it believed the challenges were strong. “There is still a long way to go before all the legal questions about plain packaging are fully explored and answered,” he said.
But legal experts say the challenges are unlikely to succeed and that the High Court’s ruling vindicates the Government’s position. Ms Roxon, the Attorney-General, said the ruling confirmed that Australia had not acquired the company’s brand and logos.
Tobacco firms have also claimed that plain packaging will lead to the growth of the black market because illegal importers will easily be able to produce counterfeit packets.
“When all packets look the same and easy to copy and smuggle over the borders, we expect that it will head in that direction,” Mr McIntyre said.
Photo: Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon with examples of the tobacco plain packaging and warning signs. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Sydney: Big Tobacco Loses High Court Battle Over Plain Packaging
- By Mark Metherell, (a former state Minister for Health) with AAP, The Sydney Morning Herald – August 15 2011
The federal government has secured a big win over big tobacco with the High Court ruling Labor’s world-first plain packaging laws are constitutionally valid.
The decision is expected to have significant influence globally with both the United Kingdom and New Zealand considering plain packaging.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon with examples of the tobacco plain packaging and warning signs.Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Health experts have hailed the decision as a major victory for global health.
It clears the way for the government to impose a ban on all brand marks and logos on cigarettes, to take effect from December this year.
Large graphic health warnings will dominate the packs and the manufacturers’ brand names will be written in a small generic font.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek declared: “This is a victory for all those families who have lost someone to a tobacco related illness.
“No longer when a smoker pulls out a packet of cigarettes will that packet be a mobile billboard.”
The ministers said plain packaging was a vital measure, “which removes the last way for big tobacco to promote its deadly products. Over the past two decades, more than 24 different studies have backed plain packaging, and now it will finally become a reality.”
The High Court orders announced today do not include the reasons for its decision, which will be published at a later date.
But the order means that at least a majority of the court is of the opinion that the plain pack legislation is not contrary to Section 51(xxxi) of the constitution.
The High Court has awarded costs against the tobacco companies that are estimated to run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
President of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Mike Daube, said the decision was “a massive win for public health”.
“It is also the global tobacco industry’s worst defeat,” said Professor Daube, who chaired the federal government’s expert committee that recommended plain packaging.
“The global tobacco companies have opposed plain packaging more ferociously than any other measure we have seen.”
The companies knew that plain packaging would have a major impact on smoking in Australia – and that other countries would follow.
Professor Daube said the companies’ own internal documents showed that packaging was a crucial part of their marketing.
“Since we learnt about the dangers of smoking, cigarettes have killed 1 million Australians, in large part because of the activities of the world’s most lethal industry.”
The tobacco companies had argued before the High Court that the government, through the plain packaging measure, would be depriving them of copyright.
During the hearings in April the companies – British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco, Van Nelle Tabak Nederland and JT International SA – argued the measure breached the constitutional requirement that the acquisition of property by the government be on just terms.
But to make that case, the companies had to show that the government gained a measurable benefit as a consequence, which is apart from the claimed benefits to population health.
The Commonwealth responded that the companies’ case could not succeed unless it could be shown that the government had taken property from them.
British American Tobacco Australia said today it was “extremely disappointed” the High Court had upheld what the company said was “a bad piece of law”.
“At the end of the day no one wins from plain packaging except the criminals who sell illegal cigarettes around Australia,” the company’s spokesman, Scott McIntyre, said.
But the company would comply with the law even though it still believed “the government had no right to remove a legal company’s intellectual property”, Mr McIntyre said.
However, legal expert Jonathan Liberman rejected the company claim that the only winners were the traffickers of illegal cigarettes.
“The only winners are everybody in the world other than the tobacco industry,” said Mr Liberman, the director of the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer in Melbourne.
Mr Liberman said it was also unlikely that the tobacco industry’s other legal challenges against plain packaging, including with the World Trade Organisation, would succeed, because of the harm to health that tobacco represented.
In Washington, the American group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the court had delivered “a tremendous victory for health”.
“We applaud the Australian government for standing up to the bullying of the tobacco industry and taking strong and innovative action to reduce tobacco use, the world’s number one cause of preventable death”.
The chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore said tobacco companies had used every possible trick and mechanism to oppose plain packaging.
The measure “will help prevent children from starting to smoke and encourage adults to quit,” Mr Moore said.
“We can take immense heart from knowing that even the massive resources of a global industry cannot buy government policy or High Court decisions.”