Plain Packaging and Australia

Wednesday, 7 March 2012  at 15:48

It’s always good when you can look at another country and see that progress has already been made, especially with an issue such as plain packaging which has such a potential impact on public health.

It is an emotive issue hinging on shocking facts about kids smoking (340,000 every year try it). Any children smoking are a huge worry for parents and there are a range of factors that lead them to a lifetime of addiction and possible premature death. A prominent one is cigarette packaging, and tobacco packaging in general, which is the last legally allowed form of advertising and presents a real challenge to public health.

Australia has a relatively small tobacco market – about 17% of adults are smokers, compared with 20% in America and 21% in the UK. The Australian Government proposed legislation mandating that all tobacco products must be sold in plain packaging in Australia by December 2012 – the first country in the world to make this commitment.

It requires all tobacco products to be sold in drab green packaging with plain-font brand name only - no colour or design that could add appeal; no trademarks, logos, descriptors, inserts/onserts or promotional information. This is based on evidence that plain packs will not only help increase prominence of tobacco health warnings but also make tobacco packaging look less attractive to kids.

In response the Tobacco industry launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign called ‘No Nanny State’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNnyLi5qLBs) . They poured millions of dollars into fighting these changes, their efforts spearheaded by the Alliance of Australian Retailers, which was created shortly before the federal election and largely funded by Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco. The tobacco industry's campaign is fronted by retailers who claim the legislation will be disruptive as well putting forward other well worn myths.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said she won't be intimidated by Big Tobacco after Philip Morris launched legal action to try to force the government to back down on introducing plain packaging for cigarettes. She said:

"We're not going to be intimidated by Big Tobacco's tactics, whether they're political tactics, whether they're public affairs kind of tactics out in the community or whether they're legal tactics. We're not taking a backward step. We've made the right decision and we'll see it through."

So Australia has led the way even when in the teeth of a Big Tobacco onslaught setting us in the Northern Hemisphere a great example of what can be achieved. We are just starting our journey but we have made a great start. If you haven’t shown your support please do at our website and forward to your friends, family and colleagues.

You can also watch our 'CEO' viral above
* This number reflects the total amount of people who have signed up to support the plain packaging of tobacco products, via the Plain Packs Protect Partnership (logos below), British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK websites.
Supporters Smoke Free South West Ulster Cancer Foundation ash Ash Scotland Ash Wales British Heart Foundation Cancer Research UK Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Cut Films Faculty of Public Health Fresh Smoke Free North East National Heart Forum NCSCT BTS - Stop Smoking Champions The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation Royal College of Physicians TCC Tobacco Free Future Trading Standards Partnership South West Smoke Free Lincs - Promoting a tobacco free life