Australia plans world-first plain cigarette packets

April 29, 2010 by Talek Harris

Australia on Thursday said it would become the world's first country to ban logos and branding on cigarette packets, sparking a furious response from the tobacco industry.

Cigarettes will be sold in plain, standardised packages carrying large, graphic warnings against smoking -- and the brand name in small print -- from 2012, under proposed new legislation.

The government also sharply raised taxes on by 25 percent from midnight on Thursday, adding about two dollars (1.85 US) to a packet of 30, with the proceeds ploughed in to healthcare.

"Cigarettes are not cool, cigarettes kill people," said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. "This will be the most hardline regime for cigarette packaging anywhere in the world," he added.

Rudd said Australia also planned new curbs on Internet advertising and would spend 27.8 million dollars on a "hard-hitting" anti-smoking campaign.

"The big tobacco companies will hate what we are doing," he said. "The government however makes no apology what for what we are doing -- it is the right decision."

Imperial Tobacco Australia said it planned to challenge the plain packaging on the grounds that it would affect its profits, arguing that branding has commercial value.

"Introducing plain packaging just takes away the ability of a consumer to identify our brand from another brand, and that's of value to us," a spokeswoman told ABC radio.

"It really affects the value of our business as a commercial enterprise and we will fight to support protecting our international property rights."

One intellectual property expert said the move could cost taxpayers more than three billion dollars in compensation. But Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the legislation would be carefully drafted to withstand legal challenges.

"There will be very graphic warnings, there will be no colourful branding or logos," she said.

"This is the last vestige of advertising that remains in Australia for and we make no apologies about trying to close it down."

is outlawed in Australia, and smoking is also banned in most enclosed public spaces such as offices and restaurants.

However Rudd said some 15,000 Australians die of smoking-related diseases every year, and that tobacco use cost the country 31.5 billion dollars a year in healthcare and lost productivity.

Health lobbies welcomed the radical packaging initiative, saying it would help stop children experimenting with cigarettes.

"Research evidence confirms retail displays predispose children towards smoking, and make them more likely to experiment with tobacco products," said the Heart Foundation's Cameron Prout.

"Banning displays is an excellent public health initiative which will not only save lives, but also reduce the burden on the health system with less smokers presenting with cardiovascular disease and cancer."

Meanwhile neighbouring New Zealand also raised the price of cigarettes by 10 percent on Thursday, with further 10 percent rises to follow at the start of 2011 and 2012.

"This move will put the price of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco up enough to save hundreds of lives," said Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia.

Turia is also co-leader of the Maori Party, which aims to represent indigenous New Zealanders. About 40 percent of adult Maori smoke, double the rate for all New Zealand adults.

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1 / 5 (4) Apr 29, 2010
'Plain' generic cigarette packs have been available, if not popular, here in the USA for some time. IIRC "CIGARETTES" in plain black lettering on a white background.
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 29, 2010
The point is not about whether or not they're available. Australia is going to mandate it for all brands, and if that just helps a few people from not smoking it's worth it. Especially as an ex-smoker myself, I think it's a great idea.
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 29, 2010
This is just sick. I can't stand how countries are raising the prices on something just so people don't do it. It is a choice! If you want to smoke, you smoke. It is your fault for any of the repercussions. It is NEVER someone elses fault for your decisions and the government is the last person you want tell you what is good or bad for you. Soda makes people fat, fat people cost money to health care. It's only a matter of time until that is taxed to death and not labeled either. It's a horrible slippery slope.
3 / 5 (6) Apr 29, 2010
For a nation that seems to respect the ideal of Liberty as much as Australia does, they sure have no shame trying to force others to do their bidding.
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 29, 2010
The point is not about whether or not they're available. Australia is going to mandate it for all brands, and if that just helps a few people from not smoking it's worth it. Especially as an ex-smoker myself, I think it's a great idea.

"Forget left and right, republican or democrat, there are two types of people in the world. Those who would control others and those who have no such ambition." - Robert A. Heinlein.
3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 29, 2010
Brendn: Freedom is a popular argument against banning/controlling something, I wholeheartedly agree with freedom of choice. However on the other side of the coin the government is paying for people who have been affected by cigarettes, why should they foot the bill for people poisoning themselves?
Governments are like parents. If I had a child with a penchant for something that's destructive to themselves and they ignored my warnings, AND placed the burden of cost on me. I would either : A) Take it away from them/Try to limit their access to it. B) Get them help. D) Stop paying for it, let them suck it up themselves (If they have the capacity).
I personally don't think it's right to deny help to dying people, and banning doesn't go over well. So what options are left? I think if they taxed it enough to offset the cost in healthcare they might be on to something. If that doesn't work, start charging the cigarette makers.
not rated yet Apr 29, 2010
Photic: I agree that non-smoking taxpayers should not have to pay for the health problems of smokers. For the amount of taxes that they generate from smoking could be used instead to pay for healthcare. Instead of wasting that money on anti-drug/tobacco advertising and all the legal BS that goes into it.
3 / 5 (2) Apr 29, 2010
It is a choice!
Addict thinks he has a choice. Quit.
1 / 5 (2) Apr 29, 2010
Is there anything more painfully obvious than an addict crying for freedom to poison themselves and then wanting society to kiss it and make them better?
not rated yet Apr 30, 2010
It is a choice!
Addict thinks he has a choice. Quit.
It's not about addicts.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 30, 2010
It's a good idea but I doubt if it will matter much, we don't smoke the wrapper and people will buy the brand they like no matter. I think it would make more sense to sell smaller packs, like 5 or 10 cigs per instead of 20. Not that the manufacturers will do it on their own, they are interested in profits not peoples health. As evidenced by their comments LOL. Also, no matter how addicted you are to anything you can quit if you have the will. If people can quit heroin they can quit tobacco.
not rated yet May 04, 2010
It is a choice!
Addict thinks he has a choice. Quit.
It's not about addicts.
Its ALL about addicts and their withdrawal-created self-deceptive delusions of freedom.
The disease of addiction- cunning, baffling, powerful. It lies to you.

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