Despite numerous court battles and growing pressure from the world’s largest Tobacco magnates, the Australian federal government introduced a controversial plain packaging law on all cigarette boxes on 1st December 2012.
No longer a platform for advertising a cigarette brand, these boxes are now covered with rather gruesome images of diseased body parts, depictions of children made ill by their parents smoking habits, and a variety of health warnings, in an attempt to strip the smoking habit of glamour.
While referred to as the “plain” packaging legislation, these new cigarette boxes are anything but plain, and feature gangrenous feet, blind eyes, and written warnings such as “smoking causes peripheral vascular disease” over most of the surface.
Australia has one of the world’s lowest smoking rates, but the federal health minister, Tanya Plibersek said, “Even from a very early age you can see that kids understand the message that the tobacco company is trying to sell through their branding.” She went on to cite studies that showed examples of children linking a crown in a logo with the idea of being a prince or princess.
Further studies indicate that if people have not started smoking by the age of 26, there is a 99% chance they never will, and the Australian government is therefore doing its utmost to prevent youngsters from starting in the first place.
As one would expect, the tobacco industry is not too impressed by the plain packaging law, and believe it will boost the black market trade as “Counterfeiters from China and Indonesia will bring lots more of these products down to sell on the streets of Australia.”
Going as far as paying Honduras, Ukraine and the Dominican Republic to challenge the new rules at the World Trade Organisation, leaders in the tobacco industry are prepared to fight the new legislation, and they certainly have the funds to do so.
When it comes to Australian smokers, those questioned remain defiant, with one stating, “The pictures don’t affect me. I just ignore them. You just grab a smoke and put it away,” while another said, “Honestly, there’s only one reason I’d stop, and that’s my little girl.”