by David Mendez
The Australian government has decided that tobacco companies have no right to brand the products that they produce, legislating that all cigarettes must be sold in boxes with the same font over a dark background.
This ruling comes out of the High Court of Australia after the dismissal of a lawsuit by four tobacco companies against the government.
"It's now broken the wall," Rob Moodie, professor of public health at the University of Melbourne, said in a telephone interview. "Governments with sufficient guts and resources can stare down the saber rattling of the tobacco companies."
Once a country implements a tobacco-control measure, it becomes easier for other countries to do the same, Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society in Ottawa, said in an email. Canada was the first to make pictorial health warnings mandatory in 2001 and about 50 nations followed, he said.
"The industry knows that plain packaging is a massive threat and that if Australia implements plain packaging, then other countries are sure to follow," Mr. Cunningham said.
The United States is soon to follow suit, to an extent. Graphic warning labels are coming down the pipeline, and will be required by law to cover 50 percent of the front and back of each pack of cigarettes.
So smokers, now might be a good time to invest in cigarette cases if you'd rather not stare at side-by-side images of healthy versus ruined lungs.