The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Australia set for toughest tobacco promotion laws

An example of the Australian Government's proposed plain packaging (c) Australian government

Australia could soon have the toughest tobacco promotion laws in the world if its plain packaging legislation is passed.

In addition, health warnings on packs of tobacco sold in the country are set to become the world’s largest when the new legislation comes into effect, which is scheduled for January 2012.

On 2 April 2011, the Australian Government announced its proposed design and legislation for plain packaging.

The proposal fulfils commitments under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It also follows on from the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention in 2009, where it was agreed that plain packaging should be considered as part of a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising.

The changes would make Australia the first country in the world to implement plain packaging. If the legislation passes as scheduled, all tobacco products sold must comply by 1 July 2012.

Cigarette packaging will change forever

The member of the FCA Board of Directors for the Western Pacific Region, Mary Assunta, says that the move to plain packaging is groundbreaking and as a result, cigarette packaging will never be the same again.

“Australia will be the test case for plain packaging, and set a new benchmark,” she said.

“Plain packaging will also include standardised packaging, which will halt tobacco industry efforts to make cigarettes more attractive, including by changing pack sizes and shapes to undermine health warnings’ effectiveness,” added Assunta.

According to the Australian Government plain packaging will:
•    reduce the attractiveness of smoking to consumers – especially young people;
•    increase the visibility of health warnings;
•    reduce packaging’s ability to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking; and
•    contribute to reduce smoking rates.

Assunta also says that Australia’s move will help pave the way for other countries to implement plain packaging.

“Often it just takes one country to do something bold and others will follow suit,” she added. “In 2000, Canada was the first country to introduce pictorial warnings, which led to many other countries doing the same.”

Largest health warnings so far

The Australian Government says the size of health warnings will increase from covering 30 per cent of the front of packages to 75 per cent, and will cover 90 per cent of the back of packages. This will result in average coverage of 82.5 per cent of packages.

Australia would then lead all countries for size of warnings, ranked as an average of the package front and back, as follows:
•    Australia: 82.5 per cent (75 per cent front, 90 per cent back) - proposal in consultation period.
•    Uruguay: 80 per cent (80 per cent front, 80 per cent back).
•    Canada: 75 per cent (75 per cent front, 75 per cent back) - proposal in consultation period.
•    Mauritius  65 per cent (60 per cent  front, 70 per cent  back)
•    Mexico:  65 per cent (30 per cent  front, 100 per cent  back)

The Australian Government has released its draft Bill and consultation paper on plain packaging, which is available for public comment. The submission deadline is 6 June 2011.

Visit the submissions page for more information. 

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