Today Australia became the first country to ban advertising on tobacco packaging. No more logos, brands–even images are forbidden.
Effective December 1st, 2012, Australia has banned “the use of logos, brand imagery, symbols, other images, colors and promotional text on tobacco products and tobacco product packaging.”
According to the law, “packaging must be a standard drab dark brown color in matte finish.”
Its goals are three-fold:
- Make cigarette packaging less attractive to consumers.
- Draw attention to health warnings
- Reduce the ability of tobacco companies to use retail packaging to “mislead” consumers about the harmful health effects of smoking (such as playing off terms like “light,” which can create the impression certain cigarettes have less tar or nicotine)
Australia’s Minister for Health and Aging, Nicola Roxon, called it “one of the most momentous public health measures in Australia’s history,” saying:
Plain packaging means that the glamour is gone from smoking and cigarettes are now exposed for what they are: killer products that destroy thousands of Australian families.
We know that packaging remains one of the last powerful marketing tools for tobacco companies to recruit new smokers to their deadly products. In the future, cigarette packets will serve only as a stark reminder of the devastating health effects of smoking.
For years now certain countries have required graphic health warnings on cigarette packages. In Egypt, for example, some cigarette packages feature images of rotten, decaying teeth. Others have a wilted, half-smoked cigarette, implying a link between erectile dysfunction and smoking. Brazil requires similar warnings.
But even in these countries tobacco companies are still allowed to use brand logos and imagery (granted they have to work around the horror show warning pics). Australia is the first country to remove advertising from the picture all together.
Needless to say tobacco firms don’t share Roxon’s enthusiasm for the new law. According to the Associated Press, Philip Morris Asia has already filed suit against the Australian government.
The tobacco giant claims there is no evidence proving plain packaging reduces smoking rates. On top of that the Australian government is required by law to compensate anyone whose property it devalues–a law that includes intellectual property such as logos and trademarks.
Roxon seemed to anticipate this in her statement:
Let there be no mistake, big tobacco is fighting against the government for one very simple reason—because it knows, as we do, that plain packaging will work. While it is fighting to protect its profits, we are fighting to protect lives.
She said big tobacco had “made a habit” of challenging legislation and called on companies to “break it.”
The way we see it, the only sure thing is the Australian government is in for a long and costly legal battle. Whether the country manages to quit tobacco branding cold turkey, only time will tell.