Australia became the first country to ban all colorful logos and other branding on the outside of cigarette packages Thursday. New legislation states that all cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging starting in December of next year.
According to the bill, the retail packaging of cigarette cartons will now have a matt finish and be a drab dark brown. The packaging will list health warnings and may display graphic images, but the brand of the company will be printed in plain white typeface. No trademarks may appear on the product.
The measures were passed Thursday in an effort to make cigarettes less enticing for children and young adults. Australian legislators hope the new regulations will decrease the likelihood that younger citizens will start smoking, thereby diminishing the number of smokers in Australia and the costly side effects that create major health problems.
Tobacco companies, on the other hand, are worried that plain packaging will impact their sales and have threated court action to question the legality of the new law. British American Tobacco, Britain's Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris seek billions in compensation, claiming that the regulations restrict their intellectual property rights, reported Reuters.
Big tobacco has been fuming since day one that this is a law that they don't want introduced. They want to keep selling their deadly products, and we want to reduce their market. So we are destined to disagree, Health Minister Nicola Roxon told Reuters.
The law has been closely watched by legislators and lobby groups in other countries, including Europe, Canada and New Zealand in particular. Bhutan has already banned the sale of tobacco since June 2010. Other countries are trying to determine how tightly they can restrict tobacco sales without violating trademark and intellectual property laws.
British American Tobacco Australia has always said that it wanted to avoid having to go to court but, if pushed to do so, it will take all appropriate legal measures to defend its intellectual property, valuable brands and right to compete as a legitimate business selling a legal product, British American Tobacco Australia said in a statement to Reuters.