In a new “landmark victory” at the World Trade Organisation, Australia has won a case which was put forward against the plain packaging laws. Australia has some of the tightest laws in the world when it comes to the sale of tobacco. Companies had previously argued that the laws violate the country’s trade obligations. However, the ruling has found that this is not the case.
Australia was the first country to introduce plain packaging in 2011. A number of other nations have followed since, but have had a lot of challenges from major tobacco exporting countries. Now that the case has been dismissed, health campaigners hope that the news will encourage more countries to impose similar legislation going forward.
The first case was brought to the WTO by Honduras back in 2012. They claim that the laws “violate laws on intellectual property and an agreement requiring states not to put up barriers to trade.” Despite other exporters such as Cuba, Indonesia and the Dominican Republic following, the WTO has ruled that the laws should be permitted.
This isn’t the only opposition we’ve seen to plain packaged cigarettes. Tobacco companies have been disputing the laws since they were announced. Their argument is that they infringe on their rights to brand and market their products. They’ve also said that the laws are less effective at reducing smoking rates than health groups are claiming.
Plain packaged cigarettes and tobacco have had the support of public health experts for many years. A number of organisations, including the WHO have expressed their support for the legislation and say it’s a valid way of reducing smoking rates. This has been supported by numerous studies and other research. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the ruling as a “big victory for tobacco control.”
Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo and Australian Rural Health Minister Bridget McKenzie have called the decision a “resounding victory.” The Australian government have welcomed the decision. In a statement, they said: After years of robustly defending the tobacco plain packaging measure against multiple claims brought within multiple forums, the government welcomes the WTO decision.”