Tobacco firm reprimanded for plain packaging breach

Thursday, 29 November 2012  at 10:14

Interesting piece by Latika Bourke at ABC News today. To view on the ABC site, click here

Story reads:

A major tobacco producer has been forced to alter its cigarettes after the ABC uncovered a first breach of the Federal Government's plain packaging laws. 

British American Tobacco has agreed to remove three letter abbreviations stamped on six brands of its cigarettes.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has told the ABC the products were "not strictly compliant" with the Federal Government's legislation.

From October it became illegal to produce cigarettes for sale in Australia that did not comply with the plain packaging rules.

The regulations say each cigarette can carry an alpha-numeric code for recall and manufacturing purposes, but that cannot be a form of advertising or in any way be related to the brand or variant of the cigarette.

Ms Plibersek says six packets of cigarettes obtained by the ABC early in October appear to breach the rules.

"They have letters on them like NYC, LDN for London, SYD for Sydney, AUS for Australia, we think those sort of letter tags suggest some meaning to people who are smoking," she said.

"It's certainly not random as it should be. It's the cigarette companies trying to push the boundaries. We have asked them to change their production."

Ms Plibersek says thin lines on the cigarette sticks also breach the rule which says the cigarette casings must be made from plain paper.

"It's a sort of watermark in the paper of some of the cigarettes. We believe that it is a breach. We believe plain paper means plain paper, it doesn't mean watermarked paper, so we've also told the tobacco companies that they need to change that," she said.

A spokesman for British American Tobacco says the company contacted the Health Department as soon as it was first notified and has since had ongoing discussions.

"We were more than happy to work with them for a mutually beneficial outcome," the spokesman said.
The Government warned tobacco companies in September not to try any dirty tricks once the plain packaging laws came into effect.

Any dodgy products could earn see manufacturers slapped with fines of more than $100 million and their products recalled.

But Ms Plibersek says tobacco companies will get off for this first breach.

"They were testing the boundaries and we've gone after them and they've rolled over, they've agreed to change what they're doing," she said.

"I think that's a good outcome for the health of the nation."

Ms Plibersek says the Government will allow the non-compliant cigarettes to remain on the market for sale until they are sold out.
* 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