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Australia Implements World’s First Law Requiring Plain Cigarette Packs

November 30, 2012


The deadly truth about smoking is plainer than ever in Australia starting on December 1.

Australia becomes the world’s first country to require that all cigarettes be sold in plain packaging, free of colorful logos and other branding. Cigarette packs will now bear only the brand name and the world’s largest health warnings, which cover 75 percent of the front and 90 percent of the back of the pack.

Australia’s highest court in August rejected a tobacco industry challenge to the plain packaging law, showing that the country would not be bullied. The law has applied to all cigarettes manufactured in Australia since October 1, and it applies to all cigarettes sold in Australia starting December 1.

The plain packs and health warnings are aimed at preventing kids from smoking and encouraging smokers to quit. There’s already evidence they’re having an impact.

According to Australian media and health advocates, smokers are not only complaining about the look of the packs, but even claiming that cigarettes in plain packs taste worse even though the taste has not changed.

Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie told the Sydney Morning Herald that smokers were phoning the Quit helpline and saying, ''I was thinking about quitting and that ugly picture has pushed me over the edge.''

Not surprisingly, tobacco companies are looking for sneaky ways around the new law. Tactics the companies have tried include enticing new brand names, ringed watermarking that makes cigarette paper look more sophisticated and inserting apparent travel destination codes — such as LDN, NYC, AUS or OZ — in the batch coding on cigarettes, according to The Australian newspaper.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has acted quickly to stop violations. She forced two big companies — Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco (BAT) — to remove the watermarking and told BAT to stop inserting the travel destination references, which she said were designed to make smokers think of the “glamour of travel.”

“There is a clear set of rules about what is allowed and if we start allowing variations then the tobacco companies will push the boundaries,” she said.

Australia is setting an example for the world not only with its pioneering law, but also with strong enforcement and a refusal to give in to tobacco industry intimidation.

Examples of Plain Cigarette Packaging