Australia plans first plain cigarette packets

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia said on Thursday it would become the world's first country to ban logos and branding on cigarette packets, sparking a furious response from the tobacco industry.

Cigarettes will be sold in plain, standardised packages carrying only graphic warnings against smoking from 2012, under new legislation announced by the government aimed at cutting tobacco use.

A woman walks over perspexencased 'cigarettes' in central Sydney. (AFP file)

"Cigarettes are not cool, cigarettes kill people," said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. "Therefore the government makes no apology whatsoever for what it's doing.

"The cigarette tobacco companies will hate this measure, they will oppose it. Nonetheless we believe this and other measures help to reduce smoking. We intend therefore to get on with the job."

Leading cigarette company Imperial Tobacco Australia said it would challenge the move on the grounds that it would affect its profits, arguing that the branding has commercial value.

"Introducing plain packaging just takes away the ability of a consumer to identify our brand from another brand, and that's of value to us," a spokeswoman told ABC radio.

"It really affects the value of our business as a commercial enterprise and we will fight to support protecting our international property rights."

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the legislation would be carefully drafted to withstand any legal challenges.

"The World Health Organisation makes it quite clear that this should be considered by countries, this type of action," Health Minister Nicola Roxon told public broadcaster ABC.

"We won't be put off by the fact that tobacco companies won't like this action. Tobacco companies didn't like it when advertising was banned. But this is the last remaining step that needed to be taken."

Tobacco advertising is outlawed in Australia, and smoking is also banned in most enclosed public spaces such as offices and restaurants.

Other news