Plain Packaging in Australia
On 21 November 2011, the Australian Parliament passed the government's proposed plain packaging legislation, and as a result, since 1 December 2012, all tobacco products sold in Australia must be in plain packaging. The legislation bans the use of logos, brand imagery, symbols, other images, colours and promotional text on tobacco products and tobacco product packaging, and the packaging must be a standard drab olive green colour in a standard matt finish.
In December 2011, talking about the impending legislation Nicola Roxon, Australian Minister for Health and Ageing at that time, said:
- We know that packaging remains one of the last powerful marketing tools for tobacco companies to recruit new smokers to their deadly products, but now cigarette packets will only serve as a stark reminder of the devastating health effects of smoking." 
Australia was the first country in the world to impose plain packaging laws. However, proposals to introduce plain packaging (also known as generic packaging and standardised packaging) in Australia date back to the early 1990s (See History of Plain Packaging: Developing the Intellectual Property Argument). As a result, many of the anti-plain packaging tactics employed by the tobacco industry across the world have been seen in Australia first.
In response to the present plans, the tobacco industry launched a multi-million dollar media and lobbying campaign, using many of its well-established tactics, listed on the main Plain Packaging and the [Industry Arguments on Plain Packaging]] pages. Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald reported that British American Tobacco (BAT) Australia had spent AUD 4.5 million (almost £3 million) on its campaign against plain packaging.
Information on Plain Packaging in Australia
Listed below are the tactics that the tobacco industry has employed to try to prevent, delay and amend plain packaging laws in Australia.
- Australia: Campaigning websites
- Australia: International lobbying
- Australia: Trademark claims and other legal threats
- Australia: Economic threats
- Australia: Smuggling and illicit trade threats
- Australia: Funding Think Tanks and Hiring Independent Experts
- Australia: Freedom of Information Requests
- Australia: Challenging Legislation
- Plain Packaging: Imperial Tobacco Australia Pre-empts Legislation
For case studies see the overview of pages in the Category: Plain Packaging in Australia:
Industry Tactics Post-Implementation
October 2012: Potential breach of plain packaging laws in Australia
As of 1st October 2012, tobacco companies were prohibited to manufacture any cigarettes and packaging that did not conform to the new plain packaging laws.
BAT are being investigated by the Federal Government after being alerted by ABC News that six tobacco brands all manufactured by BAT featured 3 letter abreviations associated with countries or cities at the base of the cigarette next to the butt.
- Benson & Hedges - LDN
- Holliday - ESC
- Winfield - AUS
- Pall Mall - NYC
The Australian plain packaging law stipulates that the paper on the cigarette can be white only but that companies are allowed to stamp their cigarettes with an alpha-numeric code for recall purposes but these codes cannot in any way relate to the brand. When asked for comment, Professor Simon Chapman at Sydney University said that the tobacco company are, “probably just testing the waters here to see what they can get away with in the early stages of the new legislation.” According to a news article in the ABC newspaper the Government wrote to BAT Australia to see if the cigarettes were manufactured after the new rules came in on the 1st October 2012.
It was reported on the 29 November 2012 by ABC News Australia that, on this occasion, BAT did not incur a fine but that the codes did constitute a breach. Health Minister Tanya Plibersek (Nicola Roxon’s successor), said that “these sort of letter tags suggest some meaning to people who are smoking….It’s the cigarette companies trying to push the boundaries. We have asked them to change their production.”
The ABC News article reported that companies in breach of the legislation could be fined more than $100 million in addition to having their products recalled. In this instance the cigarettes in question are allowed to stay on the shelves until sold out. No further cigarettes with such codes are permitted to be manufactured.
Just a few days after the legislation came into force it was reported that an Australian company was producing stickers (saleable online) which would allow smokers to cover up the graphic pictorial health warnings on the new plain cigarette packs, thereby undermining the legislation. The company Box Wrap claims that they have no links to the tobacco industry. Public health workers have called for a ban on such stickers and the Federal Government is said to be investigating whether the stickers constitute a breach of plain packaging. It is unclear how a sticker ban might work in practice.
The Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has commented on this potential breach, saying “15,000 Australians die every year because of tobacco-related illness and anyone who is making spin-off cash from that by selling the stickers or whatever else they’re doing, they’ve got questions that they should be asking themselves as well.”
- ↑ Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Parliament Passes World's First Plain Packaging of Tobacco Legislation, Minister for Health and Ageing, Media Release, 21 November 2011, accessed 28 November 2011
- ↑ Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Plain packaging legislation receives the Royal Assent Media Release, 1 December 2011, accessed 1 December 2011
- ↑ Hon Nicola Roxon MP, 1 Year for Big Tobacco to Get Plain Packs Into Gear Media Release, 1 December 2011, accessed 15 December 2011
- ↑ Lobbyists unmasked, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2012, accessed 16 April 2012
- ↑ L. Bourke, Tobacco firm may have breached packaging laws, ABC News, 26 October 2012, accessed November 2012
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 ABC News, Tobacco firm reprimanded for plain packaging breach, 29 November 2012, Accessed December 2012
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 ABC News, Cigarette box stickers designed to cover plain packaging, 13 December 2012, Accessed December 2012