| CANBERRA, April 7
CANBERRA, April 7 Australia's government has
unveiled plans for some of the world's toughest anti-smoking
laws, saying it would force big tobacco companies to use plain
green packaging for cigarettes despite the threat of industry
Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon said on Thursday
the draft laws, which will shortly go to parliament, would, if
passed, help reduce thousands of smoking-related deaths each
year that cost the economy A$31.5 billion ($32.9 billion).
"This plain packaging legislation is a world first and sends
a clear message that the glamour is gone. Cigarette packs will
now only show the death and disease that can come from smoking,"
Roxon told reporters.
The Australian tobacco market generated total revenue of
A$9.98 billion in 2009, up from A$8.3 billion the previous year,
although smoking generally has been declining. Around 22 billion
sticks are sold in the country each year.
The country's health authorities say smoking-related
illnesses kill more than 15,000 Australians each year and that
smoking is the largest preventable cause of disease and death.
The conservative opposition has yet to decide whether to
back the legislation, meaning the minority Labor government may
have to convince independent and Green lawmakers to support it.
British American Tobacco Australia , whose brands
include Winfield, Dunhill and Benson & Hedges, said the
government's plans would infringe international trademark and
intellectual property laws.
"The government could end up wasting millions of taxpayers'
dollars in legal fees trying to defend their decision, let alone
the potential to pay billions to the tobacco industry for taking
away our intellectual property ," BATA spokesman Scott
McIntyre said in a statement.
New Zealand, Canada, the European Union and Britain are
considering similar laws and governments in those countries are
closely watching to see if Australia succeeds.
Analysts say the new rules being explored in Australia and
other countries could spread to emerging markets like Brazil,
Russia and Indonesia, and threaten growth there. [ID:nLDE7091TP]
Roxon said the legislation would restrict tobacco industry
logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text appearing on
packs, with the only distinguishing marks being the brand and
product name in a standard text and colour.
Olive green packaging had been decided on, because research
showed smokers found it the least attractive colour.
The government planned the legislation to take effect at the
start of 2012, with all products on sale required to comply with
the new laws within six months.
"In addition, health warnings will be updated and increased
from 30 percent to 75 percent of the front of the pack, as well
as 90 per cent of the back," Roxon said.
The World Health Organization, in its Framework Convention
on Tobacco Control, advises authorities to "consider adopting
measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colors, brand
images or promotional information."
Australia already has tough curbs on tobacco advertising,
which have helped reduce smoking from 30.5 percent of the
population aged 14 and over in 1988 to 16.6 percent in 2007.
Roxon aims to cut smoking rates below 10 percent by 2018.
($1=0.958 Australian Dollars)
(Editing by Ed Davies and Clarence Fernandez)