By: Steve Dellar | 06-29-2018 | News
Photo credit: Twitter @SBSNews

Australia - Victory In WTO Dispute Over Plain Tobacco Packaging

In a decision that could pave the way for similar regulation to be imposed on junk food and alcohol, Australia scored a major victory in a landmark ruling by the WTO which granted the right to states to sell cigarettes in plan looking packets that carry health warnings without any marketing material of the manufacturer on it.

Four tobacco producing nations (Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Indonesia) that felt the laws violated international trade had appealed against Australia’s law before the WTO, which took seven years to decide on the matter.

Australia’s cigarette packaging law, originally introduced in 2010, had banned company logos and any distinctively-colored cigarette packaging. Instead, Australian shops can sell olive cigarette packets featuring large pictures with the health warning, making the whole thing look more like military or prison issue. All brand names of the cigarette manufacturer have to be printed in small standardized fonts.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Another big victory for tobacco control – a <a href="">@WTO</a> panel has upheld <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Australia</a>’s plain packaging policy as consistent with WTO law. This gives countries comfort to introduce plain packaging to make tobacco less attractive and save lives. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) <a href="">June 28, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Since Australia’s law was introduced, other nations, like Britain, Ireland, France, Hungary, Norway and New Zealand, implemented similar legislation, which effects will be rolled out in the years to come, leaving tobacco producers with a defined period to make the necessary adaptations to packaging.

Other states who were awaiting the outcome of the ruling said they would now also present similar legislation to their respective parliaments.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">WTO backs Australia&#39;s plain tobacco packaging <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; SBS News (@SBSNews) <a href="">June 28, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said in a joint statement with Rural Health Minister Bridget McKenzie: "Australia has achieved a resounding victory. We will not shy away from the right to protect the health of Australians."

Honduras meanwhile indicated that it would study the ruling and likely appeal: "It appears that this dispute will require the review of the Panel's findings by the WTO Appellate Body before any final conclusions can be drawn."

The World Health Organisation, which had backed Australia’s law, said the ruling would clear “another legal hurdle thrown up in the tobacco industry’s efforts to block tobacco control and is likely to accelerate implementation of plain packaging around the globe.”


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