Australia’s plain packaging wins against global tobacco firms

On 15 August, 2012, Australia’s plain packaging laws win against global tobacco firms in a court challenge that has been closely watched and can have a worldwide impact. In the WHO European Region, the United Kingdom was the first to launch such a consultation, in April 2012. Other countries, along with the European Commission, are considering similar measures.

The High Court of Australia ruled the measures did not breach the country's constitution. These measures require cigarettes and tobacco products to be sold in plain uniform packaging with graphic health warnings from December 1 this year.

Four companies (British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris), led by BAT, had challenged the law, claiming it infringed their intellectual property rights by banning brands and trademarks from packets, and was unconstitutional.

The court said in a brief notice of judgement, "At least a majority of the court is of the opinion that the Act is not contrary to (Australia's constitution)”. The court's full reasons will be delivered at a later date, and the tobacco firms were ordered to pay the government's legal costs. They cannot appeal further in the Australian legal system.