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Anti-Tobacco Campaigners Celebrate Australia’s Plain Packaging Win

(3BL Media/Just Means) – ​The Australian government ha​s​ scored a win against smoking: plain packaging will remain. Philip Morris had been fighting a lawsuit against a legislation introduced in 2011, but ​a​ Singapore tribunal​ agreed that ​the Australia’s position ​is right: the tribunal ​has no jurisdiction to hear ​the tobacco company​’s claim.

The law was introduced to protect young people who are more vulnerable to advertising and being lured into smoking. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Philip Morris Asia brought the case against Australia using a legal mechanism called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)​, and it was the first time Australia had to fight this type of litigation.​

As a rich country, Australia is in advantageous position to fight such legal cases. But it is not the same for developing countries, where smoking rates remain higher and governments don’t have robust financial resources​ to fight the problem and attacks from stakeholders.

​“Tobacco companies will do whatever it takes to undermine efforts to reduce smoking, especially in low-income countries that don’t have the resources to fight expensive lawsuits,” said Mike Bloomberg said in a blog post published by Bloomberg’s charitable arm, Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Bloomberg ​celebrated the Australian victory as an indication that the anti-tobacco campaign has gained momentum with ​the outcome in Singapore. The organization is focused on helping vulnerable countries fight back through the litigation fund it has launched with the Gates Foundation and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

​The purpose of the new fund, which was launched in March, is to assist governments in low- and middle-income countries by defending their tobacco control laws from suits brought by the tobacco industry through international trade agreements. CTFK will direct financial, legal, and other technical assistance t​o those countries when they need to defend themselves from tobacco multinationals, who will fight tooth and nail to keep​ and, if possible, increase​ their market share.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills around six million people every year​, mostly from direct tobaccl use but also from second-hand smoke. Most smokers (nearly 80% of ​one billion across the globe)​​ live in low- and middle-income countries.

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