Australia Brings Tobacco Legislation to Parliament

SYDNEY—Australia’s government introduced into parliament new laws banning advertisements on cigarette packets Wednesday, setting up a legal battle against the world’s biggest tobacco companies.

Under the proposed laws, Canberra wants to be the first government in the world to restrict logos, branding, colors and promotional text on tobacco packets beginning in January 2012. Product names will appear in standard colors and positions in a regular font and size on packets colored a dark olive-brown, which government research has found holds the lowest appeal to smokers.

Health warnings with graphic images of the harmful effects of smoking will have to make up 75% of the front of the packaging and 90% of the back.

“This world first initiative sends a clear message that the glamour is gone from smoking,” Health Minister Nicola Roxon said in a statement.

Philip Morris International Inc., the world’s largest tobacco company by revenue, last month warned Australia’s government it will challenge the decision in the courts and will seek billions of dollars in financial compensation.

British American Tobacco PLC—the biggest cigarette seller in Australia—has also warned it could pursue legal action, while Imperial Tobacco Group PLC is also opposed to the measures.

The new laws have the backing of the center-right opposition coalition and are expected to be passed by both the lower and upper house of parliament.

By Enda Curran
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