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Roxon introduces plain packaging bill

The tobacco industry is warning of several legal challenges to the plain packaging legislation

The tobacco industry is warning of several legal challenges to the plain packaging legislation

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has introduced plain packaging legislation for cigarettes into Parliament, saying the Government will defend it from any legal threats.

The legislation will force cigarettes to be sold in plain packs with a large, graphic health warning, while a second bill will remove company trademarks from the packs.

Ms Roxon told Parliament the legislation will mean Australia has the toughest tobacco promotion laws in the world.

“We’re taking this action because tobacco is not like any other legal product. When used as intended it is lethal,” she said.

“Despite Australia’s success in reducing smoking rates over recent decades, tobacco remains one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease among Australians, killing over 15,000 Australians each and every year.”

The tobacco industry is warning of several legal challenges to the legislation in a move it says could cost the Government billions of dollars.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is among the companies taking legal action over the laws.

It is accusing the Government of breaching a bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong, where the company is based.

Ms Roxon says the Government is determined to fight any legal challenges.

“Introducing this legislation today shows that the big tobacco’s intimidation tactics have not worked,” she said.

“Our Government won’t be deterred from taking this action and we believe that we are on very strong ground, although this is a world first taking this action, and are determined to proceed with it.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has said the Coalition will not oppose the legislation but may attempt to make amendments to ensure smoking rates really do drop.

Last night Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke told the Parliament he is against it because it is a nanny state response to an everyday problem.

Ms Roxon says the Government is prepared to consider amendments from the Opposition as long as they do not change the requirement that tobacco be sold in plain packs.

“I’m very confident that we have very broad support within the Parliament for this, of course it’s true that the Liberal party were dragged kicking and screaming but they have announced that they will support this legislation,” she said.

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