August 16, 2012
The Gillard government and public health advocates are deservedly celebrating the High Court recent decision on upholding plain packaging. This dismissed Big Tobacco's argument that plain packaging amount to expropriation of their trade marks and held that the plain packaging regime is valid under the Australian Constitution. The court has yet to release its reasons.
By December 1 this year, tobacco companies selling cigarettes in Australia will have to standardise the marketing of their cigarette packs in an ordinary olive-brown colour featuring large graphic health warnings with minimal space for their specific brand name. That may help to discourage smoking among young people--prevention of uptake of harmful products is a key strategy in public health.
The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has been diligent in opposing regulatory restrictions on corporations--- paternalist government regulation that restricts individual liberty and responsibility. No doubt it will run its argument about the Nanny State --eg., plain packaging laws are an intrusive nanny state intervention designed to drive those Australians who still smoke off their drug of choice.
No doubt this think tank, which stands for free markets and limited government, will find new arguments to defend the interests of Big Tobacco, which has used the legal system to undermine public health policy that protects people from the deadly health effects of cigarette smoking.
The textbook tobacco industry objections to plain packaging are: it amounts to government seizure of trademarks; there is no evidence it will work; it will make counterfeiting easier. Big Tobacco will now seek to overturn the decisions of a democratic state by using international trading agreements and law (WTO).
Some trade agreements have clauses which allow foreign investors to sue governments, on the grounds that a law or policy ‘harms’ their investment. There are provisions for member states to address public health concerns and to adopt measures necessary to protect public health.
Big Tobacco industry has been evasive in admitting liability for tobacco-related health harm and damage,