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Cigarettes will Kill You: The High Court of Australia and the Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products
WIPO Magazine (2013)
  • Matthew Rimmer, Dr, Australian National University College of Law
Tobacco, says the World Health Organization (WHO), is “the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer.” With a view to discouraging smoking and giving effect to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Australian Parliament passed the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Cth), in November of that year. The legislation was supported by all the major political parties. Photo: Packaging designs. Copyright Commonwealth of Australia. Labor Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, argued, “Plain packaging means that the glamour is gone from smoking and cigarettes are now exposed for what they are: killer products that destroy thousands of Australian families.” The leader of the Coalition Opposition, Tony Abbott, acknowledged, “This is an important health measure. It’s important to get smoking rates down further.” The Greens also supported the measure, and called for the Future Fund (an independently-managed fund into which the Australian government deposits its budget surplus to meet future superannuation liabilities) to end its tobacco investments. On December 1, 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to require that tobacco products be sold in olive-colored plain packaging. Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Cth) regulates the retail packaging and appearance of tobacco products, requiring plain, olive-colored packaging emblazoned with public health warnings and graphic images of smoking-related diseases. The aim is to improve public health by discouraging people from smoking or using tobacco products. Following the law’s enactment, a number of tobacco companies (led by British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International) challenged the legislation. This article provides an eyewitness account of oral arguments made in the High Court of Australia in the plain packaging case; and an analysis of the ensuing decision which found in favor of the Australian government (also referred to as the Commonwealth).
  • Trademark Law,
  • Plain Packaging,
  • Tobacco,
  • Cigarettes,
  • Intellectual Property,
  • Public Policy,
  • Public Health.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Matthew Rimmer. "Cigarettes will Kill You: The High Court of Australia and the Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products" WIPO Magazine (2013)
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