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November 21st, 2011:

Cigarette plain packaging laws pass Parliament

Tobacco Plain Packaging legislation passes in Australia.

(Now Hong Kong’s Administration should have the political will to follow Australia’s lead.)

One example of the 'ugly' cigarette packet packaging unveiled by the Federal Government

The Federal Government’s plain packaging laws for cigarettes have now passed both houses of Parliament.

The Senate agreed to the legislation earlier this month but made a number of amendments, including to the start date, and sent the legislation back to the Lower House.

The House of Representatives has now voted to support the changes.

The legislation means cigarettes will have to be sold in generic dark green packets from December next year, six months later than the original time frame.

Pictures of diseased body parts, sickly babies and dying people will cover 75 per cent of each packet, and tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text will be banned.

Since it was announced last year, the plan has faced fierce opposition from tobacco companies who have vowed to mount a court challenge against the legislation.

Australia will become the first country to introduce plain packaging laws.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates 15,500 Australians are killed by tobacco-related diseases every year and says passive smoking affects the health of children.

Looking forward to a smoking ban on the route of the Tour De France?

21 Nov 2011

Image for Looking forward to a smoking ban on the route of the Tour De France?

The unremarked passage of the Tasmanian Public Health Amendment Bill 2011.

This week was a noteworthy one for reform of tobacco regulation in Australia. Not only did the plain tobacco packaging legislation pass the Senate, but our own Upper House, the Legislative Council, passed a Bill banning smoking in many more outdoor public places in Tasmania, and will eliminate the display of tobacco products at point of sale anywhere in the state, including specialist tobacconists. The Bill comes into effect on 1 March 2012.

Amongst other things this legislation will ban smoking within 20 metres of the routes of organised cycling and running races in Tasmania.

I look forward to hearing the debate when someone proposes a ban on smoking within 20 metres of the entire route of the Tour De France, and for half an hour after every cyclist has passed through!

Even more remarkable was the disinterest of the Tasmanian press in the local tobacco legislation and the lack of fuss in the media generally. Whilst the tobacco lobbyists were paying their legal consultants big bucks to lobby Legislative Councillors, in order to try and delay the display ban for specialist tobacconists, they did not bother to run their arguments in the media. That is because there is no remaining public sympathy in Tasmania for the “purveyors of death”.

The Bill

However, for me the most extraordinary prohibition in the Public Health Amendment Bill 2011,is the ban on smoking around sporting events, within 20 metres of an outdoor sporting venue. This includes “….any part of the venue used to conduct the actual organised sporting event;”

The Member for Murchison, Ruth Forrest, queried whether this would mean that the entire 10 kilometres of the Skilled Burnie 10 kilometre Road Race be a smoke free zone, she was assured by the government representative that this was so! So this means that all cycle races, road races, organised fun runs in Tasmania will be smoke free for their entire route.

See Hansard Legislative Council – Tasmania Wednesday 9 November 2011 – Part 1 – Pages 1 – 66Public Health Amendment Bill 2011(No. 56)Second Reading….

“……The honourable member for Murchison also raised the issue of no smoking at the finish of the Burnie 10 and the answer to that is ‘yes’, there will be no smoking at the finish line plus within 20 metres of the running route marshalling area and the presentation area.

Ms Forrest – To the running route – the whole 10 kilometres?

Mr PARKINSON – Yes, within 20 metres.  The DHHS would approach the organisers of such events beforehand and ask them to promote the smoke-free laws in their registration and promotional material.”

The other interesting issue about the arguments surrounding the smoke free area bans was that it was couched in the language of “denormalisation” of smoking, rather relying solely on the public health issues associated with passive smoking and second hand smoke generally.

The Fact Sheet on the Bill

The Bill is intended to create a culture in which tobacco is less desirable and less acceptable. It will help protect children and others from harmful environmental (or second hand) tobacco smoke.

Denormalising tobacco is crucial to protecting the children from becoming the next generation of adult smokers. This is because most smokers begin smoking as a child. Reducing the incidences in which children are exposed to tobacco and smoking helps to denormalise smoking to children so they are less likely to view it as socially acceptable behaviour, less likely to start smoking and, as a consequence, less likely to suffer the harms of smoking.

There are already a number of tobacco restrictions in the Public Health Act. There are bans on advertising and displaying tobacco products, and restrictions on tobacco related information at point of sale, and certain health notices that must be displayed.It is already an offence to supply a child with tobacco or to smoke in a car with a child. Enclosed public places, workplaces and pubs and clubs are also smoke-free, as well as the areas within three metres of an entrance/exit to a buildingand 10 metres of the air intake for ventilation equipment on a building. Occupiers of premises to which the public has access may also voluntarily designate areas as smoke-free.

The new changes extend smoke-free areas across Tasmania to include other areas in which the public congregate and in which children are invariably present.

These areas include:
• public swimming pools
• between the flags at beaches
• pedestrian and bus malls
• in and within 3 metres of bus shelters
• in and within 10 metres of children’s playgrounds
• in outdoor dining areas and
• within 3 metres of outdoor dining areas that are not surrounded by a screen at least 2.1 metres high and impervious to smoke.

Smoke-free areas will be introduced at all outdoor sporting venues when an organised sporting event is being held. Smoking will not be permitted within 20 metres of:
• any permanent or temporary public seating
• the marshalling and warm up areas,
• podiums or other parts of the venue reserved for competitors or officials and
• any part of the venue used to conduct the sport.

The smoke-free area will apply during the game and for the period 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after.

All sports are included – little athletics, school sports, rostered sports of all leagues and alltypes – from hockey, to netball, to athletics, to football – every sport, regardless of league and regardless of the venue at which it is held, is included.

This will protect competitors, spectators and officials at sporting events. Tasmania is the first Australian jurisdiction to legislate such acomprehensive regime for smoke-free sports.

As part of the changes, the Director of Public Health will also have the ability to designate particular public events as smoke-free. This will begin with those events at which children or teenagers are particularly likely to attend – such as regattas and music festivals.

Other changes to the Act include:
• Extending the restrictions on the sale and display of tobacco products, so that:

• in addition to general tobacco retailers, specialist tobacconists cannot permanently display tobacco packets and cartons or cigars/loose tobacco;
• licensed venues may have only one vending machine in the service area of a restricted area (ie areas in which children cannot enter);
• the sale of tobacco products is banned at public events; and
• tobacco products are removed from shopper loyalty programs.
• Amending the tobacco licensing provisions, so that:

• a licence must be obtained prior to selling tobacco products from additional premises;
• licences are not transferrable to new business owners;
• licences will not be displayed in premises; and
• the licence register will not be available for public inspection (preventing its misuse by tobacco companies).
Further changes are made, so that:

• extinguishing a cigarette upon request is no defence to the charge of smoking in a smoke-free area;
• the Director of Public Health can approve classes of nominated officers (with or without conditions) to enforce particular provisions of the Act; and
• approved nominated officers may confiscate tobacco products in a child’s possession (conducting personal searches or using force is not permitted).

The changes will become law on 1 March 2012.

Philip Morris sues Australia over packaging plan

Nov. 21, 2011

Tobacco giant Philip Morris today launched legal action against Australian laws forcing tobacco products to be sold in drab, plain packaging from late next year.

Australia’s parliament has passed laws compelling cigarettes, pipe tobacco and cigars to be sold in plain olive packs from December 2012.

Tobacco export countries including Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Ukraine have warned they may challenge under world trade rules, while tobacco companies including British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, have said they may challenge the law in Australia’s High Court.

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Philip Morris said it had launched legal action that could trigger compensation claims worth billions of dollars.

“The Government has passed this legislation despite being unable to demonstrate that it will be effective at reducing smoking and has ignored the widespread concerns raised in Australia and internationally regarding the serious legal issues associated with plain packaging,” Philip Morris spokeswoman Anne Edwards said in a statement.

The action is being brought by Philip Morris Asia Ltd, Hong Kong, the owner of the Australian affiliate, through a notice of arbitration under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong.

The laws are being closely watched by governments considering similar moves in Europe, Canada and New Zealand, angering tobacco companies worried that they may set a global precedent and infringe on trademark rights.

The Himalayan nation of Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco outright earlier this year.

Australia’s Health Minister Nicola Roxon, speaking after parliament’s lower house approved laws already passed by the upper house Senate last week, demanded tobacco companies respect the will of the parliament.

“Plain packaging means that the glamour is gone from smoking and cigarettes are now exposed for what they are: killer products that destroy thousands of Australian families,” Roxon told reporters.

Roxon said while the tobacco industry was fighting to protect its profits, the government was “fighting to protect lives”.

The World Health Organisation in 2005 urged countries to consider plain packaging, and estimated more than 1 billion are regular smokers, 80 percent of them in poor countries.

Industry analysts say tobacco companies are worried that plain packaging could spread to important emerging markets like Brazil, Russia and Indonesia, and threaten growth there.

Legal experts have predicted both legal and WTO challenges to fail, as intellectual property rights agreements give governments the right to pass laws to protect public health.

Conservative opposition MPs, while backing the laws, urged Roxon to accept a three month moratorium on prosecutions and the enforcement of heavy fines for small tobacco sellers to give them time to adjust to the possible impact on sales.

Australia already bans tobacco advertising, smoking in public buildings and the public display of cigarettes in shops. In some states, it is illegal to smoke in a car if a child is a passenger.

Australia wants to cut the number of people who smoke from around 15 percent of the population to 10 percent by 2018. Health authorities say smoking kills 15,000 Australians each year with social and health costs of around $32 billion.

Australia’s tobacco market generated total revenues of around $10 billion in 2009, up from $8.3 billion in 2008, although smoking generally has been in decline. Around 22 billion cigarettes are sold in the country each year.