Aug. 14 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – Delivering a tremendous victory for health, Australia’s highest court has rejected a challenge by the tobacco industry and upheld the world’s first law requiring that all cigarettes and other tobacco products be sold in plain packaging, free of colorful logos and other branding. 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 plain packaging law, which was enacted last year, will save lives and stop tobacco companies from using their packs to make cigarettes appealing to kids. The plain packages will be required starting December 1.
Now that Australia’s plain packaging law has been enacted by its Parliament and upheld by its courts, the United States and other nations must stand with Australia and reject tobacco industry efforts to challenge the law as a violation of international trade and investment agreements. Trade agreements should not be used to undermine the legitimate efforts of any country to protect public health and reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use. Philip Morris International has challenged the plain packaging law as a violation of an Australia-Hong Kong bilateral investment agreement. Trade complaints against the law have also been filed in the World Trade Organization.
Tobacco companies increasingly have abused trade and investment agreements to challenge tobacco control measures around the world, including measures enacted by the U.S. and Uruguay in addition to Australia. The U.S. 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. It is time for the global trading system to recognize that tobacco is the world’s number one cause of preventable death, and there is a global consensus that governments should be doing everything possible to reduce, not increase, consumption of tobacco products and the harm they cause.
We applaud Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Attorney-General (and former Health Minister) Nicola Roxon and the members of Parliament who supported the plain packaging law for standing up to the tobacco industry and putting public health first.