16 Aug 2012
(CNN) –– Health officials around the world hailed the decision by Australia's high court, which stubbed out claims by tobacco companies that the packaging of cigarettes without branding was unconstitutional.
The Australian decision raises the hopes of anti–tobacco forces of similar moves in other nations. "We are elated with this victory," said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. "We also draw inspiration from the Australian government for standing up against the challenges from the tobacco industry and all its artillery for trying to block this move –– and winning. This win for Australia prepares the path for the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)."
"With Australia's victory, public health enters a brave new world of tobacco control," said Dr. Margaret Chan, director–general of the World Health Organization. "Plain packaging is a highly effective way to counter industry's ruthless marketing tactics."
Tobacco products in Australia must be in plain packaging without logos and have graphic health warnings as of December 1. It's the latest move in a global trend toward packing that shows diseased organs, dying patients, skin lesions or other medical maladies caused by smoking.
Canada was the first nation to pass legislation requiring a graphic health warning in 2001 –– 41 nations have since followed suit. Canada and 18 other nations require at least 50% of the packaging to contain health warnings. Until the Australian decision, the nation that required the most prominent warning was Uruguay, where 80% of packages contain graphic health advisories.
Tobacco companies said the Australian ruling –– which would eliminate iconic branding from appearing on the package –– would raise the amount of counterfeit products on the market, eroding government taxes collected on tobacco.
Last year the United States unveiled nine graphic health warning labels that must cover half the area of cigarette packages by this September.