15 Aug 2012

Court bid over plain packaging stubbed out

10:49 pm on 15 August 2012

Australia is another step closer to forcing tobacco companies to use plain packaging on their products.

The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge by cigarette companies to the government's right to impose the new packaging rules.

From December this year, all cigarettes sold will now have to have tobacco company logos and branding removed, the BBC reports.

Instead, they will be sold in olive green-coloured boxes. The only images allowed will be graphic photos of people suffering the effects of smoking-related diseases.

The decision paves the way for more countries to follow the initiative. The New Zealand Government has agreed in principle to introduce plain packaging for tobacco, depending on the outcome of a consultation process.

Four companies including British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco mounted a challenge against the plain packaging, claiming it would infringe their intellectual property rights.

They say cigarettes are legal and the new packaging will create a black market in branded cigarettes.

But Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says the decision is a victory for people who have lost a loved-one to a tobacco-related illness, the ABC reports.

Ms Roxon said on Wednesday that tobacco companies have tried to stop the government, but they have failed.

"They've threatened us with the expense, they've threatened us with legal action.

"I'm delighted to be able to say that we have won that legal action and just as some icing on the cake, it seem that the big tobacco companies will also be required to pay the government's costs."

Ms Roxon called on tobacco companies to stop fighting the measures and get on with implementing plain packaging.