10 Nov 2011

Plain pack law for smokes going to vote in Australia

2:45 pm on 10 November 2011

Australia is about to become the first country in the world to pass legislation requiring all cigarettes are sold in plain packs without branding.

From December next year, colourful tobacco brand logos will be replaced by plain packets bearing gruesome pictures of smoking-related disease to make the product less attractive.

Tobacco industry spokesperson Scott Macintyre has predicted the Australian government will have to spend "millions of dollars" of taxpayers' money fighting challenges in court, followed by "potentially billions of dollars" in compensation to the tobacco industry.

"We've invested billions of dollars into these brands. Unfortunately, it looks like the government is pushing us down that path," Mr Macintyre told the ABC.

But Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the government is ready for a fight.

"We are not going to be bullied into not taking this action just because big tobacco companies say they might fight us in the courts," she told reporters in Brisbane.

"Big tobacco have been fuming from day one that this is a law they don't want introduced. They want to keep selling their deadly product and we want to reduce their market, so we are destined to disagree with each other."

Ms Roxon says she does not believe the government will have to pay billions in compensation.

"They're using that as a way of threatening both the government and the senate to try not to proceed with this law," she said.

The opposition has said it will support the legislation after it was accused of being in the pockets of big tobacco and accepting substantial political donations from the industry.

But it will oppose the bill that will allow the government to override trademark rights held by cigarette manufacturers.

Despite that, the laws will pass through the senate with the support of the Greens on Thursday.