11 May 2010
Australia is the first country in the world to demand plain packaging for all cigarette products sold in the country.
By July 2012, the only thing seen on cigarette packages sold in Australia will be prominent graphic health warnings and the brand and product names in a standard colour, position, font style and size. This means no eye-catching industry logos, brand imagery, colours or promotional text.
The Australian government believes the move will reduce the incidence of smoking because cigarette packages will look less appealing and the tobacco industry will have less means to mislead people.
Tobacco industry threatened
Generic packaging poses a huge regulatory threat to the tobacco industry because in countries like Australia where nearly all other forms of advertising are banned, it is the main way the industry communicates with consumers. If branding is removed cigarette packages lose much of the appeal that can entice young people into starting smoking and can no longer target particular groups such as women.
The government believes there is no legal basis to industry threats about compensation claims under the Australian constitution or allegations about breaches of international trade obligations.
Plain packaging to go global
Chair of the Tobacco Issues Committee, Cancer Council Australia, Kylie Lindorff said history shows that ground-breaking tobacco control advancements have a global dimension, even more so since the FCTC has been in place.
“The history of tobacco control has shown that policy initiatives like smoking bans in bars, graphic health warnings and retail display bans implemented in one country then spread around the world quite rapidly,” she said.
“Once Australia goes ahead, we would expect to see pressure for similar measures in a number of countries. It would be interesting to hear from FCA members which countries they think will try to progress plain packaging.”