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Plain Packaging: The domino has started , NZ next, then UK, India , France and the avalanche follows …..

  • December 17, 2012, 1:24 PM ET

Australia’s Tobacco Crackdown, Heading To Europe?

ByTom Gara

At the beginning of December, one of the world’s toughest anti-tobacco laws came into effect in Australia, banning all company branding and logos from cigarette packaging. A pack of cigarettes in Australia is now an olive-green box with health warnings and the brand name written in a discreet, generic font at the bottom.

Those plain-packaging laws, which were vigorously opposed by the tobacco industry in Australia, could next move over to Europe. From Reuters today:

The European Union’s executive Commission is to propose larger health warnings on cigarette packets and a total ban on flavorings such as menthol, a draft revision of EU tobacco rules seen by Reuters showed on Monday.

The proposals stop short of forcing all cigarettes to be sold in plain packets carrying graphic health warnings, as required in Australia from the start of this month. But individual EU governments will be free to insist on such packaging if they choose to do so.

Australia has been an early mover on anti-tobacco laws, banning advertising on TV and radio in 1976, in newspapers in 1989, and sponsorship of sports and cultural events in 1992. The packaging itself is pretty much the last place company logos could be found, and now that too has been banned.

When the Australian High Court rejected an appeal against the new plain-packaging laws back in August, tobacco companies worried the laws would soon be tested overseas, and today’s news on the draft EU decision will certainly keep those worries alive.

International trade agreements are one way the tobacco industry and sympathetic countries are fighting back. Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and Honduras have already filed complaints claiming the Australian laws violate free-trade treaties, and today the Dominican Republic called for the WTO to set up a special panel to investigate whether the Australian laws comply with WTO regulations.

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