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UK Eyes Oz’s Tough Anti-Smoking Laws

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01 December 2012

UK Eyes Oz’s Tough Anti-Smoking Laws

Australia introduces new laws which ban advertising on cigarette packets, as the British government watches the impact.

6:27am UK, Saturday 01 December 2012

Undated handout photo issued by Action on Smoking and Health of examples of Winfield cigarette packaging

Video: Should UK Follow Australia’s Smoking Ad Ban?

By Jonathan Samuels, Australia Correspondent

The British Government is considering following Australia’s lead by stripping all branding and logos from tobacco packaging.

From today, Australia becomes the first country in the world to put all tobacco products in standardised packs which are a drab olive colour and have the manufacturer’s brand in a simple uniform font.

The packs are covered in graphic health warnings portraying dying cancer sufferers, diseased feet and ill babies.

The law bans the use of logos, brand imagery, symbols, other images, colours and promotional text.

Australia’s plain packaging laws are a potential watershed for the global industry, which serves one billion regular smokers, according to World Health Organisation statistics.

Australia’s government says the aim is to deter young people from smoking by stripping the habit of glamour.

It is relying on studies showing that if people have not started smoking by the age of 26, there is a 99% chance they will never take it up.

The potential hitch, experts say, is the popularity of social media amongst the very demographic the plan is targeting.

After a series of Australian laws banning TV advertising and sports sponsorship and requiring most sellers to hide cigarettes from view, online is the final frontier for tobacco marketing.

“If you are a tobacco marketer and you’ve only got this small window left to promote your products, online is the compelling place for you to be in,” said Becky Freeman, a public health researcher at Sydney University.

Australia has become the first country to introduce plain cigarette packs

The tobacco industry recently lost a High Court bid to have the legislation stopped.

Scott McIntyre of British American Tobacco Australia, the maker of Winfield cigarettes, says the new packs are easier to fake and will boost black market trade, leading to cheaper, more accessible cigarettes.

“There will be serious unintended consequences from the legislation,” he said. “Counterfeiters from China and Indonesia will bring lots more of these products down to sell on the streets of Australia.”

The industry has shifted its focus to potential copycat legislation elsewhere. Ukraine, Honduras and the Dominican Republic have filed complaints with the World Trade Organisation, funded by the tobacco industry, claiming the laws unfairly restrict trade, although their trade with Australia is minimal.

Many smokers in Australia say the new packs won’t change their habit. “As a 14-year veteran smoker the packets make no difference to me,” one man told Sky News.Cigarettes being sold in Australia

Another smoker said she may be more inclined to keep the packet, with its gruesome health warnings, hidden from view, but that it wouldn’t stop her smoking.

Earlier this year, the British Government launched a consultation on plans to introduce similar standardised packaging. Information generated by the consultation, which closed in August, is still being analysed by health officials.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK‘s chief executive, said: “The Australian Government is to be applauded. Today marks the day when tobacco companies are further stymied in their efforts to recruit Australian children into a lethal addiction.

A UK Department of Health spokesman said: “We have received many thousands of responses to the tobacco packaging consultation. We are currently in the process of carefully collating and analysing all the responses received.

“The Government has an open mind on this issue and any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information.”

Australia aims to cut the number of people smoking from 15% of the population to just 10% in six years’ time.

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