Nov. 10 2011
WASHINGTON, DC — The government of Australia has shown tremendous courage and leadership in the global fight against tobacco use by enacting the world's first law requiring that all cigarettes be sold in plain packaging, free of colorful logos and other branding. The Australian Senate approved the bill today, clearing its last major legislative hurdle. The Australian House approved the bill in August and is expected to quickly agree to minor changes made by the Senate. When implemented, this bill will save lives and stop tobacco companies from using their packs to make cigarettes appealing to kids.
In enacting this legislation, Australia's leaders have shown that countries can and should stand up to the giant tobacco companies and their bullying tactics aimed at defeating measures to reduce tobacco use. In Australia, Philip Morris International and other tobacco companies have desperately fought the plain-packaging legislation with multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns and lawsuits. We applaud Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Health Minister Nicola Roxon and the members of Parliament who supported the legislation for standing up to the tobacco industry and putting public health first.
Now it is critical for other nations, including the United States, to stand with Australia and defend its right — and the right of all countries — to take action to protect the health of their citizens in the face of tobacco industry challenges. Among their tactics, tobacco companies increasingly have challenged measures to reduce tobacco use as violations of trade and investment agreements, and they have already filed such a challenge to Australia's plain packaging legislation. The United States and other countries must reject such efforts. Tobacco companies must not be allowed to bully and intimidate countries against taking actions that protect public health.
In addition to the plain packaging requirement, Australia is also strengthening the large, graphic warnings it requires on cigarette packs as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce tobacco use. Australia's health leaders believe these measures will reduce the appeal of tobacco products to consumers, including children; increase the effectiveness of the health warnings; and deprive the tobacco industry of an important tool it has used to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of tobacco use. We congratulate Australia's leaders for taking strong and innovative action to reduce tobacco use and for standing up to the tobacco industry.