Australia leads charge on tobacco branding

A precedent has been established in Australia that could have ramifications for the rest of the world, after the country’s High Court ruled that tough tobacco rules are not unconstitutional.
British expats moving to Australia after December 1st 2012 will notice that all cigarettes will be boxed in brand-free packaging, except for graphic images and warnings explaining how detrimental smoking is to a person’s health.
There will be no logos, and instead, names of cigarette providers will be visible in a standard size and generic font.
Leading international tobacco companies had challenged the new Australian law, saying that it infringed on their intellectual property rights. Although companies like British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris International would like the government to renege on the law, they are seeking financial compensation to “soften the blow”.
“The plaintiffs sought to rely upon the restraint upon the legislative power of the commonwealth parliament found in section 51 of the constitution, which empowers the parliament to make laws with respect to ‘the acquisition of property on just terms’,” the High Court said in a statement.
“The plaintiffs argued that some or all of the provisions of the act were invalid because they were an acquisition of the plaintiffs’ property otherwise than on just terms. At least a majority of the court is of the opinion that the act is not contrary to section 51.”
Despite this decision, the big tobacco companies remain undeterred and, upon reading the full judgement of the court, are more than happy to seek legal recourse for what they believe is an excessive act.
According to the Australian government, the new law will be a major factor in tackling the problem of smoking in the country and help reduce the number of people taking up the addictive and harmful habit.
“We hope other nations follow Australia’s lead and eliminate the use of tobacco packaging as a marketing tool, to help reduce the global tobacco death toll, which is on track to reach half a billion people this century,” commented Ian Oliver, chief executive of Australia’s Cancer Council.
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