By Marisa Kuhlewein
Produced for online by Natalie O’Brien
Three European countries are set to follow Australia’s lead and introduce plain packaging of tobacco, despite the World Trade Organisation challenge to the initiative.
The United Kingdom, France, and Ireland have followed Australia’s lead by legislating, or indicating they will begin to legislate, for the plain packaging of tobacco products.
Tobacco companies have taken the laws to the WTO saying their trademarks are being infringed upon, whilst Cuba, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Indonesia allege the rules are an illegal barrier to trade.
The WTO ruling is not expected to be published until July, but a confidential draft says Australia’s laws are a legitimate public health measure.
The dispute panel ruling, will be a blow to the tobacco industry.
It will be the third failed attempt by Big Tobacco, to discredit Australia’s plain packaging laws which were introduced in 2012.
University of Sydney Public Health Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman, says Australia is a pioneer in the control of tobacco advertising and promotion, and this landmark case has attracted immense international interest.
“This is likely to see the floodgates open, right around the world, for other countries following Australia,” he says.
Queensland University of Technology intellectual property expert Doctor Matthew Rimmer, says the ruling by the WTO is a matter for public health policy, tobacco control, intellectual property law, and international law.
“The really important and profound point coming out of the WTO dispute, is that it really lights the way for further initiatives that could be taken in respect to tobacco control to secure a tobacco free future,” he says.
Critics of the ruling fear it may have wider implications and give countries the green light to roll out similar laws on packaging of alcohol and junk food.
Tobacco products are highly addictive and see two in three of its long-term users die prematurely.