Australia Begins to Back Track on Plain Packs After Cigarette Sales Rise

Australia Begins to Back Track on Plain Packs After Cigarette Sales Rise

As the UK and Irish governments move closer to laws mandating the plain packaging of tobacco products, Australia – the only country to-date to implement standardised pack laws – may be moving closer to ditching the policy amid concerns regarding its effectiveness.

Australian politicians in the right-of-centre Liberal Party are now calling for the repeal of the law, which has failed to halt cigarette sales in the year-plus that it has been in effect. 

Sources in Australia are concerned that tobacco consumption has actually grown since the introduction of plain packaging, particularly of cheaper brands.

Liberal MP Alex Hawke, a proponent of repeal, said “I think our policy should be evidence-based and where governments get the best bang for their buck; that is on individual responsibility, rather than big government.”  

Likewise, Liberal Democrat Senator-elect David Leyonhjelm has already argued that “plain packaging does more harm than good” and should be “revisited.”

In addition to seeing tobacco consumption rise under plain packaging, the heavy-handed law has also resulted in the filing of at least five different disputes regarding intellectual property rights, especially trademarks and geographical indications, against Australia with the World Trade Organisation.

Critics of proposed UK and Irish plain packaging laws argue that both countries would become similarly subject to WTO claims were either country to enact similar legislation, and that smoking rates would not fall by virtue of mandating standardised packs

But proponents of plain packaging, including civil servants at Britain’s Department of Health, regard the policy as a worthwhile tobacco control measure.

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