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Call for plain cigarette boxes

4th May 2010

Australia wants to become the first country to ban tobacco brands and logos altogether.

smoker1

The government has already set firm restrictions on the way tobacco companies can advertise themselves, as well as banning smoking in all public places.

The potential legislative move, set to become active in 2012, has sparked a furious response from tobacco companies all over the world, whose products would then appear exactly the same.

Under the proposed law, cigarettes in Australia would be sold in standardised packages featuring graphic pictures that warn people about the dangers of smoking.

The Australian government has also added a 25% tax to cigarettes.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that cigarettes were not cool, and that smoking killed people.

He said that his regime would be the hardest in the world where cigarette packaging was concerned, and that he was also planning new restrictions on online tobacco advertising.

Imperial Tobacco Australia plans to challenge the plain packaging law in court, and claims that switching to brandless cigarettes would drastically reduce its profits.

A spokeswoman for Imperial Tobacco Australia said that introducing plain packaging would take away the ability of consumers to identify the Australian brand, and as such would affect the value of their business.

Rudd said that, while he knew big tobacco companies would hate what the Australian government was doing, he felt it was the right decision.

Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon said that she and her colleagues would be careful to draft the new law in a way that could withstand pressure from tobacco lobbies.

She said that the proposed standardised packaging would feature very graphic warnings, without colourful branding or logos, in an effort to totally limit the ability of tobacco companies to advertise in Australia.

The law would prohibit tobacco companies from associating any images or promotional text with their products.

Over 15,000 Australians die each year from causes related to smoking, and tobacco has been identified as the country's largest preventable cause of death.

Studies have made it clear that the tobacco industry used branding and updated packaging designs to minimise the effect of the health warnings on cigarette packs.

But Australian regulations have reduced smoking by about half in the past 20 years, and with the new legislation, the government hopes it can further reduce smoking by about half.

Cameron Prout of the Heart Foundation said that research evidence confirmed that retail displays predisposed children to smoke, making them more likely to experiment with tobacco products.

He said that banning displays was an excellent public health initiative which would not only save lives, but also reduce the number of smoking related diseases worldwide.

 

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