Australia Takes On The Tobacco Giants
The Australian government has taken on the giant tobacco companies single handedly at last! It is the first nation in the world to enforce a similar kind of plain packaging for all tobacco products sold in the country. No company logos or obvious display of the brand name will be permissible now. There will be explicit health related warnings on the packets instead.
The High court of Australia upheld this decision last Wednesday. The government welcomed the move stating it as a, "watershed moment for tobacco control around the world." The big players of the tobacco industry were not too pleased with this ruling though and said that the government was resorting to an unconstitutional act which will deprive them of doing business fairly and legally. The public has no problems with the decision but some of the Australians were a little apprehensive about how effective the plain packaging would be in curtaining smoking.
Why Was It Necessary?
Tobacco has been identified as the biggest killer of human beings so far. The World Health Organization statistics reveal that more than 6 million people die every year on account of this deadly habit. Some of them are also victims of secondary or passive smoking which has nothing whatsoever to do with bad habits. The health monitoring body, WHO has also urged the governments around the world to take urgent action against this peril or else the death toll will simply keep increasing.
Tobacco happens to be one of the most easily preventable causes of death and is responsible for 1 death out of every five occurring around the world. It is also responsible for incurring $96 billion in medical costs and another $97 billion in decreased productivity every year in the US.
The Australian government had tried out various measures for reducing smoking before. Some of the initiatives included:-
A 25% excise duty on tobacco products in 2010.
A ban on Internet advertising about tobacco products.
Numerous marketing campaigns emphasizing the dangers of smoking and its adverse effects on human health.
While the public health advocates have hailed the initiative, the tobacco companies have made their displeasure evident.
The spokesperson of ‘Imperial Tobacco’ stated, "Any company in similar circumstances, when faced with the loss of brands worth billions of dollars, would challenge such laws." The statement went on to elaborate how this ruling will give rise to illicit trade depriving the Australia government of its rightful revenue as well as impinging on the intellectual property rights of the legitimate companies. The ‘British American Tobacco’ seconded the statement saying that it will only help to increase smoking amongst the young and impressionable as they will be get an access to cheap and illegal products which would jeopardize their health further.
The PML and Imperial Tobacco were not as guarded in their reaction though and said that the legal discourse was still open. PML also cited the legal challenges presented by Ukraine, Honduras and Dominican Republic and how the company was tackling them.
The mandatory pictorial health warnings describing why tobacco is injurious to health needs to cover at least 50% of the packet according to the current regulations in USA. However, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco product manufacturers have already challenged it stating that it violated the First Amendment Rights.
The World Health Organization says that only 11% of the present population is apparently safe from ill effects of smoking thanks to National laws. However, there is more to be done if we want the world to be a better place to live in. There seems to be some light flickering at the end of the tunnel now that the Australian government has dared to take the bull by its horns. We live in the hope that the other countries would follow suit soon too.
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