Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

August 16th, 2012:

Lancet article and Commentary, August 16, 2012

Download PDF :





Lancet Comment. First we need to know the numbers. Koplan, Mackay. Lancet 12 08 18

Australian court approves tobacco pack logo ban

Description: A woman smokes next to a cigarette pack in central Sydney in this October 12, 2011 file photo. REUTERS-Daniel Munoz-Files

Description: A woman holds a packet Winfield cigarettes at Bondi beach in Sydney August 15, 2012. REUTERS-Daniel Munoz

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia called on the world to match its tough new anti-tobacco marketing laws that will ban logos on cigarette packs, after its highest court on Wednesday dismissed a challenge from global manufacturers.

The decision means that from December 1, cigarettes and tobacco products must be sold in plain olive green packets with graphic health warnings, such as pictures of mouth cancer and other smoking-related illnesses.

Although the impact of Australia on their global business is small, the law could have a major effect if it is adopted as a precedent in other countries, especially the fast-growing economies that cigarette firms see as markets of the future.

The laws are in line with World Health Organisation recommendations and are being watched closely by countries including Britain, Norway, New Zealand, Canada and India, which are considering similar measures to help fight smoking.

British American Tobacco, Britain’s Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco challenged the laws in Australia’s High Court, claiming the rules were unconstitutional because they effectively extinguished their intellectual property rights.

In a brief statement, the High Court said a majority of its seven judges believed the laws did not breach Australia’s constitution. A full judgment will be released later.

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 1 billion people around the world are regular smokers, with 80 percent in low- and middle-income countries.

Shares in tobacco groups dipped lower with Philip Morris down 0.5 percent in New York and BAT off 1.9 percent and Imperial Tobacco down 1.7 in London.

Supporters of the measure hailed the legal victory as an important step for public health in Australia and any other countries that may copy it.

Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon hailed the ruling as “a watershed moment for tobacco control around the world”.

“The message to the rest of the world is big tobacco can be taken on and beaten,” said Roxon, whose father, a smoker, died of cancer when she was 10.

“Without brave governments willing to take the fight up to big tobacco, they’d still have us believing that tobacco is neither harmful nor addictive,” she said after the ruling.

According to the global Tobacco Atlas, a report on smoking produced by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society, 17 percent of male deaths and 14 percent of female deaths in Australia are due to tobacco.

“We hope other nations follow Australia’s lead and eliminate the use of tobacco packaging as a marketing tool, to help reduce the global tobacco death toll — which is on track to reach half a billion people this century,” said Australia’s Cancer Council Chief Executive Ian Olver.


Countries with legal systems similar to Australia’s may be among the first to try to copy the packaging logo ban.

New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the decision gave New Zealand more confidence to push ahead with similar measures. In Britain, which is also considering such steps, anti-smoking and health campaigners welcomed the ruling.

“This is a major victory not just for Australia but for the world and the first of many bloody noses for the tobacco industry on plain packaging. It should encourage the British government to go ahead with legislation,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-smoking lobby group Action on Smoking and Health.

Britain finished a four-month consultation process on plain packaging last week and will now analyze the thousands of responses it has received. It is expected to make a decision on whether to push ahead with legislation later this year.

The Department of Health said no decision had been taken, although Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been quoted as saying “we no longer see smoking as part of life” and that he wanted tobacco companies to have “no business in the UK”.

Canada, meanwhile, has just implemented graphic warning rules and is watching developments in Australia.

“At this time, the Department is not planning any regulatory action to require plain packaging for tobacco packages. Health Canada continues to review available research on plain packaging as a form of tobacco control and closely monitors plain packaging proposals put forward in other countries, such as Australia,” Olivia Caron, a spokeswoman for Health Canada, said.

A spread of plain-package laws to emerging markets, such as Brazil, Russia or Indonesia, could threaten cigarette firms’ sales growth.

In Indonesia, the government said it would like to follow Australia’s example. “That’s excellent … this is one way to protect the people,” Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi told Reuters.

However, anti-tobacco campaigner Tulus Abadi, head of the national commission on tobacco control, said there had been little movement from the government on a draft law to include graphic warnings on cigarette packets like those in Australia.

Russia’s Rospotrebnadzor, the state consumer protection agency, was not available for comment on Wednesday.

But plain-package laws are not likely to come to that country anytime soon, one Russian anti-tobacco analyst said.

“For now, we (Russia) would not be able to get rid of companies’ logos from cigarette packages,” said Dmitry Yanin, a Russian anti-tobacco activist and head of the International Confederation of Consumer Societies. “But we do hope the ruling will help us implement a law that calls for introduction of graphic images of the effects of smoking on cigarette packages.”


Tobacco firms say plain packaging laws violate their intellectual property rights and will stimulate a black market in fake or illegally imported cigarettes.

“It’s still a bad law that will only benefit organized crime groups, which sell illegal tobacco on our streets,” British American Tobacco Australia spokesman Scott McIntyre said after the decision. However, he said the firm would comply.

Firms can also use free trade arguments against plain packaging laws. Australia is already fighting trade complaints in the World Trade Organization (WTO) from Ukraine, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, which claim the laws unfairly restrict trade, although their trade with Australia is negligible.

Philip Morris said it would launch a legal challenge against the laws under a bilateral Australia-Hong Kong investment agreement.

“There is still a long way to go before all the legal questions about plain packaging are fully explored and answered,” Philip Morris spokesman Chris Argent said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Gyles Beckford in WELLINGTON, Olivia Rondonuwu in JAKARTA,; Kate Kelland David Jones in LONDON; Ece Toksabay in ISTANBUL; Lidia Kelly in MOSCOW; Louise Egan in OTTAWA; and Brad Dorfman in CHICAGO; Writing by Paul Tait and David Jones; Editing by Peter Graff and Marguerita Choy)

Smoke signals rule in tobacco identity crisis


16 Aug, 2012 03:00 AM

”IMAGINATIVE” use of brand names and social media could become the next
big marketing weapons for tobacco companies, as cigarette packs look set to
be stripped of their branding, experts said.

Anti-smoking groups were also concerned that incentives for vendors to
promote certain cigarette brands could increase as tobacco companies fought
for their share in a declining market.

”It’s impossible to exaggerate what a massive blow this is for tobacco
companies because their pack is their brand identity,” Professor Simon
Chapman, a public health academic at the University of Sydney, said.

”But what they’ve still got is their name and I think we’ll see companies
really start trying to introduce compelling new brand names that in
particular will appeal to a young demographic.”

Professor Chapman pointed to boutique cigarette brands such as Pink Dreams
and German brand, Sex Smooth ‘n Easy, as examples of brand names that could
lure young smokers.

Becky Freeman, from the University of Sydney, whose research into online
tobacco marketing was published in the international journal Tobacco
Control, said cigarette companies would increasingly look to the ”poorly
regulated” online space to promote its products.

”Already we are seeing a lot of activity here with fan pages for
cigarette brands on Facebook and product reviews on YouTube. As another
avenue for marketing closes in Australia, this industry is going to look at
what avenues are still open to them and invest in those areas in very
creative ways.”

Tobacco companies are banned from advertising on Australian websites but
there is nothing stopping them directly, or indirectly, from setting up
Facebook pages that promote their brands.

A Melbourne Business School associate professor of marketing, Don
O’Sullivan, said the best form of advertising left open to tobacco
companies in Australia was word of mouth and people seeing others smoking,
”whether it be within their social network or on TV”.

Confusing smoke signals after Oz cigarettes victory

The health chief appears to have backtracked from an earlier promise to clamp down harder on tobacco.

Mary Ann Benitez

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The health chief appears to have backtracked from an earlier promise to clamp down harder on tobacco.

There were high hopes that, under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and health minister Ko Wing-man, Hong Kong could follow Australia in banning “mini-billboard advertising” by imposing plain cigarette packaging.

Canberra won its battle against Big Tobacco yesterday when the High Court of Australia ruled that forcing cigarettes and tobacco products to be sold in drab green uniform packaging with graphic health warnings from December 1 this year does not contravene the country’s constitution.

Asked by The Standard whether Hong Kong would follow suit, a spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said the government is committed to control tobacco use “in accordance with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

She added: “We will continue to monitor the situation and review our measures with a view to protecting public health in Hong Kong. We do not have any concrete proposal for new measures at this juncture.”

In June, before he was officially appointed as secretary for food and health by Leung, Ko told The Standard: “As a doctor and as chairman of the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society, I would support any initiative to help eliminate tobacco.”

At least 20 countries have introduced plain packaging but have been challenged in the courts.

Hong Kong-based Philip Morris Asia has already launched a lawsuit in Hong Kong alleging the law on plain packaging breached Australia’s bilateral investment treaty with the territory.