Joe Camel may be dead and buried, but tobacco companies are still able to display product logos and colours on cigarette packages in countries such as Canada.
That may change, however, if a ruling made in Australia Wednesday is any indication. The country’s highest court upheld a decision requiring all cigarette packages to be sold in plain packages, stripped of logos, company colours or any other information other than graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking. The move makes Australia the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging and is being called the world’s toughest law on cigarette packaging.
The tobacco industry fought the ruling, arguing a requirement for plain packages is unconstitutional because it steps on their intellectual property rights. Manufacturers also argued that plain packaging will make it easier for contraband tobacco products to thrive.
Plain packaging means that all branding, logos, trademarks and other company-specific information on tobacco products are not permitted. Companies will only be allowed to have their name printed in simple font of a mandated size. Government officials and health experts say the move will help reduce the ability of tobacco companies to promote their products to prospective smokers, particularly young people who haven’t yet started.
“The industry knows that plain packaging is a massive threat and that if Australia implements plain packaging then other countries are sure to follow,” Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said in an e-mail. “Plain packaging is inevitable in Canada, and...Australia’s world precedent will make it easier to achieve the same thing in Canada.”
Canada was the first country in the world to put graphic warning labels on cigarette packages.
The federal government recently introduced updated warning labels, which take up 75 per cent of the space on the front and back of cigarette packages.
But the decision to update the labels only came after months of delays and an investigation by the CBC that revealed the federal government shelved plans for new warning labels after being lobbied by the tobacco industry.
Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, said the federal government has fallen down on the job when it comes to cigarette labels. She cited a decision by Health Canada to reject increasing the size of graphic warning labels to 90 or 100 per cent of package as proof.
“Australia punches above its weight when it comes to dealing with big tobacco,” Ms. Callard said in an e-mail. “Meanwhile, the Canadian government either pulls its punches – or decides not to punch at all.”
Do you think plain packaging will have a major effects on people’s smoking habits?