Cigarettes and plain packaging: the battle lines are drawn
The Lancet Oncology
Volume 12, Issue 8, August 2011, Page 709
Available online 29 July 2011.

On July 6, 2011, Australia became the first country to send a bill to their parliament on plain packaging for cigarettes. The legislation aims to reduce the number of current and new smokers by increasing the eff ectiveness of the health warnings and also by reducing the appeal of the product. If voted through, and it has cross-party support, the legislation will be enacted next year. As expected, even before the announcement, a counter-offensive had been launched by the tobacco industry. The legislation has been referred to the TRIPS council and the Technical Barriers to Trade committee in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in an intellectual property rights battle, but rather than being headed-up by the tobacco companies, this move is spearheaded by low-income and middle-income countries...

The Australian tobacco market is comparatively small, representing only A$9·98 billion in 2009, but much eff ort is being expended to stop this law because it will set a precedent with Canada, the UK, and New Zealand all predicted to follow Australia’s lead. The US FDA has already set out proposals to have more prominent health warnings on packets from September, 2012. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the tobacco industry should use its infl uence over other players to delay, frustrate, and block this important initiative. The sovereignty of countries should be absolute and not influenced by multinational companies with complex accountability. This laudable move towards plain packaging must not be derailed by veiled tactics from companies with vested interests. Only then can progress be made to tackle tobacco-associated diseases, which are largely preventable, but mostly lethal.

Referenced Lancet Oncol News & Lancet Editorial:

Australia to be first country to use plain cigarette packaging
Warning: a hard habit to break