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Tobacco giant Philip Morris ordered to pay Australian government millions

The order comes after the failed attempt to sue the country over its plain packaging laws.

Plain packaging cigarette packets.
Plain packaging cigarette packets.
Image: Niall Carson

TOBACCO GIANT PHILIP Morris has been ordered to pay millions of dollars to the Australian government after its failed attempt to sue the country over its plain packaging laws.

In 2012, Australia became the first country to mandate that cigarettes must be sold in plain packages. This initiative has since been followed by other nations including Ireland, France and Britain.

The aim of standardised packaging is to make all tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to prevent packaging from misleading consumers about the harmful effects of tobacco.

The tobacco giant Philip Morris tried to have the laws overturned, but this attempt was dismissed in the international Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2015.

The firm has now been ordered to pay the government’s legal costs.

The court made its decision about cost payments public at the weekend, which was originally published on 8 March 2017.

The exact sum of the cost was redacted from the PCA’s decision, but the Sydney Morning Herald reported it was as high as $50 million (€33.36 million).

Morris’ protest

Philip Morris launched a legal challenge against Australia’s plain-packaging laws, arguing the new rules impinge on their trademark intellectual property.

Philip Morris, manufacturer of some of the world’s most recognisable brands, including Marlboro, lodged the challenge with the PCA after the plain-packaging legislation was first passed in Australia.

It tried to use a 1993 trade deal between Australia and Hong Kong that included foreign investment protections to argue against the ban.

In May 2016, an international tribunal confirmed it had rejected the bid by the tobacco giant, calling the attempt “an abuse of rights”.

Irish tobacco packaging laws

The Irish government brought forward legislation last March for the standardised packaging of tobacco.

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The signing of the legislation means that all tobacco all tobacco products manufactured for sale in Ireland from 30 September 2017 must be in standardised retail packaging.

There will be a wash-through period allowed, meaning any products manufactured and placed on the market before the September date will be permitted to stay on the market for a 12-month period.

Minister for Health Simon Harris and the then-Minister of State Marcella Corcoran Kennedy were both behind the bill.

“Standardised packaging will reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products and forms a key part of Ireland’s strategy to reduce tobacco use, particularly uptake among children and young people,” Corcoran Kennedy said in March.

Almost 6,000 people die from tobacco related disease and tobacco use.

With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha and AFP. 

Read: Tobacco company’s attempt to sue Australia “an abuse of rights”

More: From September, all cigarette packs sold in Ireland will look the same

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