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August 22nd, 2011:

Plain packing push gets tick of approval Market watch top headlines

August 22 2011, 7:45PM

A federal parliamentary committee has dismissed as “insubstantial and superficial” big tobacco’s claim that there is no evidence to suggest plain packaging of cigarettes will cut smoking rates.

The Gillard government wants to force all cigarettes to be sold in drab olive-brown packs from mid-2012 in order to reduce the product’s allure and make mandatory health warnings clearer.

Manufacturers told an inquiry into Labor’s draft laws that there was no evidence to suggest the world-first move would actually deliver health benefits.

But the lower house health committee rejected that argument.

“The committee considers that criticisms of the evidence base … were insubstantial and, on the whole, superficial,” it said in an advisory report released on Monday.

“Notably, the fact that plain packaging has not been introduced in other countries should not function as a deterrent to passage of the legislation.

The Labor-dominated committee said the plain-packaging push demonstrated Australia’s willingness to take the lead in tobacco control.

Indeed, it was told by the Canadian Cancer Society that Australia was a potential “role model” for other countries considering the move.

Quit Victoria gave evidence that there were 30 “rigorous experimental studies” examining the influence of tobacco packaging.

“(It was) reported that all of these studies had concluded that the packaging of cigarettes was an important marketing device for cigarette manufacturers, and that a reduction in branding had made cigarettes less attractive, and had increased the power of graphic health warnings,” the advisory report states.

Big tobacco argued plain packaging could make it easier for counterfeit products to enter Australia and see legitimate manufacturers compete on price rather than brand.

But again the health committee wasn’t convinced.

“The committee notes Australia has a strong customs and quarantine regime and that there are also a range of sophisticated anti-counterfeiting measures which could be adopted,” it said.

“The committee does not find the argument that the legislation will lead to unintended negative health consequences to be convincing.”

Committee chair Steve Georganas said public health advocates “overwhelmingly” believed the evidence in support of plain packaging was sufficiently robust to proceed.

The Heart Foundation welcomed the committee’s findings and called on parliament to pass the draft laws which are due to be debated in the lower house on Wednesday.

“We urge all political parties to get on with ending the tobacco industry’s marketing of death in glossy boxes,” the foundation said in a statement.

The opposition last week said it would support the main enabling legislation but not an associated bill which aims to ensure plain packaging won’t affect big tobacco’s ability to protect trademarks for use other than on packs.

But Health Minister Nicola Roxon believes the government has enough support to get both bills through parliament without opposition support.

By Julian Drape

Big tobacco’s argument is all smoke and mirrors


Look who’s now casting itself as a First Amendment crusader: Big tobacco.

Yes, cigarette companies are making the case that their advertising may be unpopular, but it’s constitutionally-protected speech. Five of the big-name brands have filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration, claiming the 2009 legislation that allows the agency to require graphic warning labels on packs of smokes tramples their First Amendment rights.

Their attorney, Floyd Abrams, maintains it violates the right to free speech to require these makers of a lawful product to essentially urge the public not to buy it. The size of the government warning labels, with images such as a man blowing smoke through a gaping hole in his neck, unfairly chokes out the company’s own message, he argues.

Maybe so. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free speech violation.

A commercial product like cigarettes, after all, doesn’t fall into the same constitutional category as someone with an unpopular religion or belief. Accordingly, it’s not guaranteed as much protection under the First Amendment.

Commercial products and their speech are already regulated differently. With noncommercial speech, the government isn’t allowed to inquire whether it’s true or false: regulation must be content-neutral. But that’s not true for advertising. The government can ban ads that are false, or other types of commercial speech. Regulations on insider trading, for instance, forbid even casual remarks that might lead to abuse.

In the case of cigarettes, the government’s interest in protecting public health is substantial. And tobacco companies’ own advertising is clearly misleading, aimed at making people forget this product is lethal. With all the false imaging of youth and vitality that tobacco companies use to mask the danger of cigarettes and get people hooked, they should be thankful the government hasn’t banned their advertising campaign entirely, as Norway did.

Big tobacco doesn’t have a right to convey whatever messages it chooses. The First Amendment was intended to protect free expression by unpopular minorities — not the right of a powerful industry to sell a deadly, addictive product.

Tobacco Companies In Court


Tobacco companies being sued by the Ontario government for 50  billion dollars are due in court today.

Anti-smoking advocate Michael Perley says he was told the 14 companies will argue the province has no jurisdiction to sue them because they’re controlled by foreign firms.

The cigarette makers — Imperial Tobacco Canada, J-T-I-Macdonald, and Rothmans, Benson and Hedges — are controlled by foreign parent companies.

In a statement released when the lawsuit was first announced Imperial called the suit a “cash grab.”

It also claimed it was “hypocrisy of the highest order” for the government to collect cigarette taxes and also sue tobacco makers.

The province says a law allows it to sue tobacco companies for any wrongdoing and lets it recover health-care costs linked to smoking-related diseases.

The 50  billion dollar figure covers the amount the province claims it has spent since 1955 on smokers who get sick

Complaint to the Ombudsman – Big Tobacco funded Reward Scheme

Download PDF : Ombudsman