20 Aug 2012

WTO to be next cigarette battleground

7:36 am on 20 August 2012

The international tobacco industry is pursuing action through the World Trade Organisation after losing a challenge against plain packaging laws in Australia.

Radio New Zealand's Sydney correspondent says smoking has killed nearly 1 million people in Australia over the past 60 years and costs the taxpayer more than $A30 billion per year.

Companies like Phillip Morris challenged the Australian government's legislation to require cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging. But the High Court has rejected the appeal.

The World Health Organisation has welcomed the ruling as setting an international precedent.

Tobacco companies say the Australian law violates a treaty with Hong Kong and are now seeking international arbitration.