Australia to become first country to introduce plain cigarette packaging
Cigarettes in Australia will soon have to be sold in plain packaging to prevent consumers - and particularly children - from being influenced by tobacco advertising.
The measure is included in a new package of actions announced by the Australian government and has been welcomed by Cancer Research UK, which has campaigned hard for the government to introduce similar legislation in England.
Other new measures adopted by the Australian government include an extra AUS$27.8 million (£16.9 million) to be spent on hard-hitting anti-smoking campaigns, restrictions on the internet advertising of tobacco products and a 25 per cent increase in tobacco tax, which should provide an extra AUS$5 billion (£3 billion) over four years to be spent on healthcare.
All of the above measures were recommended by the Australian National Preventative Health Taskforce, which said that "there can be no justification for allowing any form of promotion for this uniquely dangerous and addictive product which is illegal to sell to children".
In a statement, the government confirmed that in a world first all cigarettes will be sold in plain packaging by July 1st 2012, removing "one of the last remaining frontiers for cigarette advertising".
This means that cigarette packs will no longer be able to carry tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours or any promotional text, other than the brand and product names in a standard colour, position, font style and size.
It is hoped that the removal of branding and design features will help to make the graphic health warnings on cigarette packs more prominent and the Australian government revealed that these warnings will be updated and expanded.
"Cutting smoking will save lives, take pressure off our hospitals and deliver significant economic benefits," the government said.
"It is one of the best investments in prevention, and keeping people healthy and out of hospital, that we can make."
Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "Cancer Research UK welcomes the announcement of the introduction of plain packaging of cigarettes in Australia. Since the restrictions on tobacco marketing were introduced in the UK in 2002, slickly designed, multi-coloured packs have become one of the main ways that tobacco companies communicate brand imagery and promote their product. They use eye-catching pack designs to attract new smokers, the vast majority being children and young people.
"Plain or 'standardised' packaging will help stop the pack from being the industry's 'silent salesman' and recruiting another generation into using a product that kills half of all long-term users. Our "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" campaign urges the UK government to wrap tobacco in plain packaging, and with Australia now leading the way, we renew our call to protect young people from tobacco marketing."