Wilma Stassen

In a landmark ruling, which could potentially strengthen the move to similar legislation in SA, the Australian high court dismissed the tobacco industry’s challenge to the “plain packaging law”.

From December, all cigarettes packaging in Australia will be sold in drab dark brown packs with no trademark brand logos. Companies will be able to print their name and the cigarette brand in a small, prescribed font on the packets.

The boxes will carry stark health warning messages and pictures, which will cover 75 percent of the front of the pack and 90 percent of the back.

The Australian government’s roll-out of plain packaging for tobacco products are being closely followed by other countries.

In SA, the Department of Health is implementing new regulations that will require graphic images to appear on tobacco packaging. “We are not looking at plain packaging at the moment, but tobacco control is an ongoing process, so we’ll see,” a spokesperson said recently.

Anne Jones, CEO of the group Action on Smoking and Health Australia, believes that the tobacco industry’s response is not aimed at retaining the Australian smoking market, which is small compared with other countries, but because once Australia succeeds in implementing these laws, other coun tries may follow suit.

“They [tobacco companies] are acting in Australia, because they don’t want any success that we have [against them] to go viral and to domino to other countries,” Jones said last year.

“Because the tobacco industry is so powerful and threatening, I think some countries have been waiting to see how Australia gets it [the law] through. I think all the lessons learnt will be quickly looked at by other countries to see how best it can be done.”

Dr Yussuf Saloojee, of the National Council Against Smoking in SA, said: “The cigarette companies hate nothing more than laws that restrict their ability to sell more cigarettes.

“Their legal challenges are destined to fail because the courts accept that more cigarette sales mean more sickness and more deaths, and that governments have a duty to act to reduce these harms.”

Saloojee said the purpose of the legislation was to prevent young people from starting smoking by reducing the appeal of tobacco packaging.– Health-e News Service