Australia Passes 'Plain Package' Law For Cigarettes

The Australian Parliament has passed legislation that outlaws attractive cigarette packaging. Each pack will carry drab colors and images of disease. Gone will be some of the more iconic images companies have relied on to market their products.

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Australia has just passed what's considered the toughest law in the world on cigarette packaging. Stuart Cohen reports from Sydney.

STUART COHEN, BYLINE: The new law will require all cigarettes to be packaged in the same olive drab-colored box, something research has found makes cigarettes unappealing. Gone will be some of the more iconic images companies have relied on to market their products, like the rustic cowboy and desert camel. Instead, most of the pack will carry highly graphic images of diseases caused by smoking. The brand name will be reduced to a small, generic font with nothing to distinguish one brand from another. Australia's Health Minister Nicola Roxon has been pushing hard for the new law.

NICOLA ROXON: Gone are the days when people can pretend that cigarettes are glamorous. We're going to ensure that, in Australia, there are no remaining avenues for tobacco companies to market and promote their products, particularly to young people.

COHEN: The law has received broad support from members of parliament, even from the usually combative Opposition Party. But Australia is facing challenges from the tobacco industry. They're accusing the government of everything from copyright infringement to violating free trade agreements. They're also threatening to flood the market with cheap cigarettes.

David Crow is CEO of British-American Tobacco, Australia's biggest cigarette company.

DAVID CROW: We will obviously focus on pricing, given it's the only thing really left to focus and differentiate brands. More people will smoke. We all know. Things get cheaper, people buy more, and more kids will smoke. And that is obviously completely opposite to what the government intends.

COHEN: But the tobacco industry has already lost one legal fight in Australia's High Court. The law is set to take effect in December of next year. For NPR NEWS, I'm Stuart Cohen, in Sydney.

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