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Big tobacco fights back against plain packets
April 7, 2011
9:34 am
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rath
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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worl.....c-12994787

1 hour 12 minutes ago

One example of the 'ugly' cigarette packet packaging unveiled by the Federal Government. (Supplied)

[Image Can Not Be Found]

* Packaging plan could reduce youth smoking: expert (The Midday Report)
* Nicola Roxon joins Lateline (Lateline)
* Related Story: Roxon to unveil no-frills cigarette pack plan
* Related Story: Cigarette rethink: Logos out, death and disease in

British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) says it will launch a court challenge against proposed plain-packaging laws for cigarettes.

The Federal Government wants to stop tobacco companies from putting logos or brands on cigarette packages from mid-next year, after new laws come into force.

It also wants to make the dull-green packets feature larger health warnings, including images of diseased gums and blinded eyes.

BATA spokesman Scott McIntyre says the legislation would unfairly deprive tobacco companies of their intellectual property rights and drive up smoking rates.

"We've taken away our brands and then what's left to compete on?" he said.

"The price of cigarettes goes down because it's the only competition point left.

"Cheaper cigarettes [become] more accessible to younger people: smoking rates go up."

Mr McIntyre says the legislation leaves the company with no choice but to defend their intellectual property in court.

"We're going to see the Government spend millions of taxpayers' dollars fighting this in the courts and then potentially billions of taxpayers' dollars in compensation to the tobacco industry," he said.

BATA says several countries have considered plain packaging but ultimately rejected the move over legal concerns and fears of a boom in the black market.

"Plain packaging will also make it easier to sell counterfeit cigarettes because fakes will be harder to spot," Mr McIntyre said.

"It provides a blueprint for criminals to make illegal cigarettes, as they now have the exact specifications to produce and import them into the country."

But Professor Mike Daube, president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, says the tobacco industry's fierce opposition to the plan is the best evidence it will have an impact.

"There is a great deal of evidence showing that glossy packs are appealing, they appeal especially to kids," he said.

"We know if you give kids cigarettes from a plain pack or a glossy pack, they think the ones from a glossy pack taste better even though they're identical.

"The retailers are trying to defend the product. This product kills one in two regular users - it's already killed close to a million Australians since we've known about the dangers of smoking."

Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the plain packaging should decrease smoking-related deaths, but Opposition spokesman Peter Dutton says he has not seen proof of this.

"If she is putting forward a proposal based on hope, I think Australians want to see the evidence," he said.

"If there is evidence which backs an increase in the excise that brings down smoking rates, and certainly that's the advice of the Preventative Health Taskforce that the Minister is in possession of, then let's hear the Government's response into that."

Mr Dutton says he is not opposed to plain packaging but would not say whether the Opposition will support the legislation.

After 60 days of public comment, the legislation will be introduced during the winter sitting of Parliament.

Meanwhile, a Central Australian Indigenous health group says better education would have a bigger impact on Aboriginal smoking rates than plainly packaged cigarettes.

More than one in two Indigenous Australians smoke cigarettes, compared with less than one in five non-Indigenous people.

The chief executive of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Stephanie Bell, says the proposal is welcome, but high school completion rates are a bigger factor.

"In terms of the impact that has on smoking, it actually reduces the uptake of smoking by 50 per cent," she said.

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