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"Our bold approach to plain packaging inspiring others"

Monday, 14 January 2013  at 17:26

The University of Melbourne have today launched a new book to mark the full implementation of Australia’s world-first plain tobacco packaging legislation. 

The book tittled, Public Health and Plain Packaging of Cigarettes: Legal Issues (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2012) offers an,

"in-depth analysis of the domestic and international legal issues surrounding plain tobacco packaging".

 The piece continues:

What are some of the key issues and debates highlighted in this book?

The book provides a discussion of the legal implications of plain tobacco packaging in its historical and social context, including the development of tobacco control measures in Australia. It also considers the lawfulness of plain packaging under Australian Constitutional Law and international trade and investment law. The High Court of Australia (Australia’s highest court) has rejected a constitutional challenge to the legislation, and the trade and investment issues are being examined in ongoing disputes in the World Trade Organization and pursuant to the Hong Kong-Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty. The book also examines related international cases such as the investment dispute between Philip Morris and Uruguay and how plain packaging would fare in the EU legal framework.

Could Australia’s plain packaging legislation be seen as a precedent for other countries?

Other countries considering legislation of this kind include New Zealand and the UK. They have both held public consultations, and it looks like New Zealand will be the next country to adopt plain packaging.
The circumstances for each country are going to depend on whether that country has a constitution and the scope of constitutional protections. For example, other constitutions might have similar provisions to Australia in relation to acquisition of property, but some constitutions would also have stronger provisions regarding freedom of commercial speech or protection of public health. 

The Australian government’s win in the High Court has set an important precedent for other countries, increasing the likelihood that other countries will follow suit. The outcome of the trade and investment disputes (which I predict the Australian government will win) will have an even bigger impact on the rest of the world, and that is what the tobacco industry is most concerned about. 

Why did tobacco companies fail in the High Court case against the Australian Federal Government?

That case concerned a claim by tobacco companies that plain packaging amounts to an acquisition of property on other than just terms (that is, without compensation). A six to one majority of the Court held that an acquisition arises only where the government or another obtains a proprietary benefit as a result of the measure. Although plain packaging contributes to the government’s health objectives, that benefit is not proprietary and therefore plain packaging does not effect an acquisition of property.

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* 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