Australia wins plain packaging case against tobacco giant

A packet of cigarettes showing the new plain package and health warnings.
A packet of cigarettes showing the new plain package and health warnings. Kevin Farmer

THE world's ugliest smoking packets will remain in place for Australians, after tobacco giant Philip Morris failed in its effort to challenge the plain-packaging laws.

The Hong Kong company was fighting the laws through arbitration in a Singaporean tribunal.

It was attempting to knock out the laws by using a 1993 trade agreement with Hong Kong.

The tribunal found unanimously that Australia had no jurisdiction to hear Philip Morris's claim.

The tobacco giant's international senior vice president, Marc Firestone slammed the decision.

"There is nothing in today's outcome that addresses, let alone validates, plain packaging in Australia or anywhere else," he said in a statement.

He said the battle was being fought on a technicality instead of on the merit of whether plain packaging was effective or legal.

Philip Morris Asia has been fighting these claims since November 2011 when the then-Gillard Government passed the plain-packaging laws that ensured all cigarette packs are now a drab green colour with graphic medical warnings.

The company said the World Trade Organisation was still considering whether to challenge the laws.

The precedent set by the laws in Australia are now being followed by the United Kingdom and Ireland. Each country will bring in their own plain packaging laws from May 2016.

The laws were introduced by a Labor Government but have since been supported by the Coalition.

Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash told the Sydney Morning Herald she welcomed the tribunal's decision.

"Smoking does untold harm to Australians, causing deaths from cancer; lung and heart disease, and hurting families.
"The Coalition Government has powered ahead with plain packaging and invested in reducing smoking rates across the board," she said.

Topics:  editors picks plain packaging smoking

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