Australia wins one for world health

Blog Post created by NDC_Team on Jul 11, 2018

Australia has won an important battle against the tobacco industry.  In 2011 Australia passed a law which required ‘plain packaging’ for all cigarette packs sold in the country.   That means the pack must have a graphic health warning, be one drab color, with the brand name in standard size and font.  Plain packaging has been shown to make it less likely young people start smoking, more likely that smokers will stop.  It also helps people who are trying to stop by reducing relapse risk from point of sale marketing.  It is very good for public health and will substantially reduce the cost of health care in the country.

Since 2011 Australia has been in litigation with tobacco companies who sued Australia for ‘theft of property’. The Supreme Court in Australia decided against the tobacco industry in 2012.  In anticipation of this, the tobacco companies relocated their local corporate headquarters to other countries and subsequently sued Australia for ‘theft of property’ meaning their packaging color schemes and branding.  The industry sponsored countries such as Honduras and Indonesia as plaintiffs in the suit.

Last week the World Trade Organization decided in Australia’s favor.  It did cost the country almost 40 million dollars, a cost which many other countries might have found too burdensome.  You can read more about the court decision: Australia wins landmark World Trade Organization ruling on tobacco plain packaging laws .

John Oliver on his show ‘this Week Tonight’ aired in 2015 a very funny and insightful discussion of the Australia plain packaging legal battles. He deftly illustrates the threat to other countries posed by the tobacco industry, while the pose as representatives of the public interest. You can view the episode: Tobacco: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)