Recently, the Australian High Court dismissed the legal challenge from the tobacco industry and has gone ahead with the plain packaging of cigarettes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has strongly welcomed the decision and urged other countries to follow their lead.
Despite several major tobacco companies challenging this move by the Australian government, the Australian government finally won the tug-of-war. As of December 2012, all Australian will be the first country to sell cigarettes in drab olive green packaging without branding.
With Australia’s victory, public health enters a brave new world of tobacco control. Plain packaging is a highly effective way to counter industry’s ruthless marketing tactics. It is also fully in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The lawsuits filed by tobacco giants could be compared to the death throes of a desperate industry. With so many countries lined up to ride on Australia’s coattails, the WHO says that they hope to see a domino effect for the good of public health. Earlier it was reported that the Australia-India Institute Taskforce on Tobacco Control stated that plain packaging could help bring down tobacco usage by heightening the effect of pictorial warnings. The move by the Australian government is being closely watch by other countries in a hope to implement the same strategy to help fight tobacco .
The evidence on the positive health impact of plain packaging compiled by Australia’s High Court will benefit other countries in their efforts to develop and implement strong tobacco control measures. According to WHO, tobacco use is one of the most preventable public health threats. A statistical study showed that nearly six million people will die each year of diseases related to tobacco use. If governments do not take strong action to limit exposures to tobacco, by 2030 it could kill more than eight million people each year.
The WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control entered into force in 2005. Partcipating countries obliged over time to protect people from tobacco related ill effects such as: protecting them from exposure to tobacco smoke, counteracting illicit trade, banning advertising, promotion and sponsorship, banning sales to minors, putting large health warnings on packages of tobacco and increasing tobacco taxes. More than 170 countries are Parties to the Convention.