Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cigarette Labels, Down Under

After a series of legal challenges that failed to change the rules, cigarette marketers in Australia are getting ready to comply with the country's new laws on plain packaging. Starting on December 1st, 75% of the package front must be devoted to graphic images and written warnings about the dangers of smoking.

Australia has set a goal of reducing smoking rates from nearly 17% in 2007 to 10% by 2018. This plain-pack law is one of several approaches to demarketing tobacco products.

Now, instead of the familiar red-and-white box, Marlboro cigarettes will look like the packs in the photo. In fact, every brand's cigarettes will be packaged in similar wrappings, with strict rules on the way the brand name is presented on the label. A recent study confirms that plain packaging is much less appealing to would-be smokers than the usual colorful, differentiated cigarette packages.

One legal challenge the Australian courts brushed aside was the argument that brands' intellectual rights were not being respected. Manufacturers charged that the country was infringing on their legal right to use trademarked packaging and branding. The high court responded: Although the Act regulated the plaintiffs' intellectual property rights and imposed controls on the packaging and presentation of tobacco products, it did not confer a proprietary benefit or interest on the Commonwealth or any other person.

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