The Irish Cancer Society said it welcomed the decision by Australia’s High Court to back tough anti-tobacco laws on packaging. From Dec 1, all cigarettes on sale in Australia will be in olive coloured packets showing cancer-riddled mouths, blinded eyeballs, and sick children. The court’s decision follows a major test case between tobacco companies and anti-smoking campaigners.
The Australian government, which has urged other countries to adopt similar anti-smoking laws, wants to make smoking as unglamorous as possible.
Tobacco companies British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, Imperial Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco International had claimed the new rules were unconstitutional because they effectively intellectual property rights and devalue their trademarks.
A majority of the court’s seven judges believe the laws do not breach Australia’s constitution. The full judgement is to be released later this year.
The court has also ordered the tobacco companies to pay the government’s legal fees.
ICS head of advocacy and communicationsKathleen O’Meara, said the society would be writing to Minister for Health James Reilly seeking a meeting with him on the issue of plain packaging.
“We know that Minister Reilly is very committed to the battle against tobacco and is very much in favour of measure to reduce the smoking rate, so we are hoping to get a very positive hearing from him on the issue,” said Ms O’Meara.
“We have led the way on the workplace smoking ban and we could lead the way in being the first country in Europe to introduce plain packaging as well. There have been very subtle tactics by the industry to target young women in particular. There are coloured packets in pink and blue looking more like a perfume dispensers that contain slimline cigarettes.”
Ms O’Meara said the ICS had conducted focus groups with women that found the packs did not look as if they could cause any harm and were more like a fashion accessory.
There was also a certain “cachet” associated with the cheaper “roll-your-own” tobacco packets and Ms O’Meara believes they too would also be affected by plain packaging laws.
“We have a particular smoking problem in Ireland, with the rate of lung cancer now exceeding the rate of breast cancer in women, and that is very, very worrying,” said Ms O’Meara.
She said cancer specialists were meeting younger and younger women with smoking-related cancer. “We have a major public health issue on our hands and we need to tackle it.”