AUSTRALIA’S HIGHEST COURT has rejected an appeal from tobacco companies against new rules which will stop manufacturers from keeping their customised designs on their boxes – instead forcing them to carry graphic health warnings.
The new rules, coming in from December, will replace the usual colourful cigarette boxes with a plain olive green box, which will include photographs depicting the damage that sustained tobacco consumption can cause.
The High Court appeal had been taken by some of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers, including Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.
The companies had worried that Australia’s laws could set a precedent for other countries around the world – and claimed that the generic packages, designed by the government, devalued their own trademarks and violated their intellectual properties.
They also made the case that they were not being compensated for the move, which sees them hand over almost all of the packaging space on the cigarette box to the government which can then use it for its own purposes.
It is not yet known what impact those arguments had, however, as the court has yet to issue its ruling in writing – merely saying yesterday that the case had been rejected outright.
The government hopes that the uniform boxes will make smoking as unattractive and unglamorous as possible – and is keen to ensure that the tactic makes children less likely to take up the habit.
Cigarette makers reacted with dismay to the court decision, with several companies arguing that the generic boxes – although apparently in keeping with the country’s constitution – would make it easier to create counterfeit forgeries.