Australian Cigarettes: Big Tobacco Loses Plain Packaging Fight
Australian Cigarette Packaging to Feature Health Warning, No Branding
Major tobacco companies have been handed a massive defeat in Australia. The High Court ruled that the controversial plain-packaging legislation is constitutional, which means that the Federal Government can force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in unbranded packs that only feature graphic health warnings.
The cigarette company name and product type (i.e. lights, menthols, etc.) will only be featured in small, plain type at the bottom of the packet.
Big Tobacco is furious, arguing that their right to assert a brand has been unfairly infringed upon. he argument that the High Court ruling benefits sellers of illegal tobacco is not particularly convincing.
The rationale behind the Labour-backed legislation is simple: scare new smokers away from cigarettes with graphic imagery on each packet sold. However, addicted smokers are less likely to be affected: it's not as if the health risks of smoking have been obscured in recent decades.
Also, expect to see a resurgence of the cigarette case, as smokers will buy cigarettes, transfer them to a stylish case, and simply throw out the scary-looking packet in which the cigarettes were originally sold.
When we write "Big Tobacco", we mean British American Tobacco/BAT (Lucky Strike), Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco and, Philip Morris (Marlboro), which filed suit against the legislation.
Australia's decision is seen as a litmus test to the viability of such radical overhaul of how cigarettes are sold. Australia may be a relatively small market, but the USA is not.
In terms of what makes people smoke, though, packaging is perhaps less relevant than other, immediate sociological factors.
In a similar but less far-reaching move, Canada has banned the display of cigarettes in stores: they're hidden behind hastily-constructed beige doors. The idea behind the display ban was that cigarettes become normalized in the minds of kids when displayed alongside other supermarket and convenience-store items, perhaps missing the whole grownup-and-forbidden factor that accompanies teen smoking.