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Advocacy: Plain packaging - a colourful fight in the High Court

Posted by Melissa: May 2012 

What's one thing guaranteed to get the big tobacco companies to blow their smoky stacks and run coughing and wheezing to their lawyers?

Introducing the Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Clth) , that's what. It's exactly what the Australian Government did late last year.

The Act legislates against colourful cigarette packaging which means the current packs of durries, lung busters or cancer sticks as they are charmingly known, will be changed to a drab, dark brown colour.

The aim is to make tobacco less attractive to smokers, and just as importantly, yet-to-become smokers.

The Act was met with some major, but not surprising, opposition by Big Tobacco, namely Japan Tobacco International,  British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco who have taken the Government to the High Court of Australia.

It was also fully supported by Cancer Council who has been lobbying for some time for changes to packaging.

In court, the Government has argued that smoking related illness and death costs billions of dollars to Australian tax payers, not to mention the emotional costs of losing loved ones to smoking related health issues such as lung cancer.

And such costs mean they should intervene for the health of the nation.

The Government believes (and research backs the view) that making smoking less attractive to Australians by changing packaging is a sure-fire way to lower the smoking rates and therefore death rates.

However, big tobacco argues the Act is an "acquisition of property on less than just terms" under the Australian Constitution.

Simply put, they contend the Government is stealing their branding and forcing cigarette packs to become "little billboards" for Government anti-smoking advertising.

It will be a "watch this space" for the High Court decision which is due later this year, but if the Government is successful, the drab, dark brown packs are planned to go on sale from 1 December 2012.

Of course giving up smoking is one way to Cut Your Cancer Risk.  You can find our more by visiting www.quit.org.au or by phoning 13 78 48.

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