Australia: Roxon brushes off plain pack opposition

Aug 22, 2011

The Federal Government says it remains confident its plain packaging laws for cigarettes will pass the Parliament, despite the Opposition threatening to block elements of the legislation.

Legislation introduced in Parliament in July forces cigarettes to be sold in plain packs with a large, graphic health warning, while the second bill removes company trademarks from the packs.

The Opposition says associated changes to the trademark laws are not needed and it will not support them.

But Health Minister Nicola Roxon says intellectual property laws need to be changed and she is hopeful the legislation will be passed.

“I am very confident of the broad support that we have received, even if Mr Abbott doesn’t want to support it,” she said.

“We’ve had very enthusiastic support from most of the independents, but also from a number of Liberal backbenchers, so I would be surprised if this legislation is unable to pass.”

Ms Roxon says the legislation will mean Australia has the toughest tobacco promotion laws in the world.

The tobacco industry has previously warned of several legal challenges to the plain packaging legislation in a move it says could cost the Government billions of dollars.

In the United States, four tobacco companies have filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over what they say are unconstitutional requirements for warning labels on US cigarette packaging.

The third largest cigarette manufacturer in the US, Lorillard, says it is “challenging nine new cigarette warnings as an unconstitutional way of forcing tobacco manufacturers to disseminate the government’s anti-smoking message”.

Meanwhile, a key element of the Federal Government’s overhaul of the health system has passed the lower house of Parliament.

The National Health Performance Authority is being set up to report on hospital standards, and the legislation will now be considered by the Senate.

Source: ABC News (August 17, 2011)