New tobacco marketing laws upheld in Australia

Wednesday 15 August 2012 22.00
Smoking kills around 15,000 Australians a year
Smoking kills around 15,000 Australians a year

Australia's highest court has endorsed tough new anti-tobacco marketing laws.

The Australian High Court dismissed a legal challenge from global cigarette companies in a major test case between tobacco giants and anti-smoking campaigners.

Tobacco giants British American Tobacco, Britain's Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco challenged the laws.

They claimed the rules were unconstitutional because they effectively extinguished their intellectual property rights.

In a brief statement, the High Court said a majority of its seven judges believed the laws did not breach Australia's constitution.

The decision means cigarettes and tobacco products must be sold in plain olive green packets without branding from 1 December.

The plain packages will also carry graphic health warnings.

The laws are in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.

They are being watched closely by Britain, Norway, New Zealand, Canada and India, who are considering similar measures to help fight smoking.

All political parties in Australia support the plain packaging laws and there is little hope a future government would overturn the laws.

Australia wants to cut the number of smokers from around 15% of the population to 10% by 2018.

Authorities say smoking kills around 15,000 Australians a year.

The World Health Organisation estimates more than 1bn people around the world are regular smokers, with 80% in low and middle income countries.