Australia plans cigarette brand ban

In collaboration with the Press Association

Australia is a step closer to becoming the first nation to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

Two bills have been passed by Parliament in the lower house, and are now heading to the upper house. If they receive smooth passage, as is expected, it will pave the way for a ban on tobacco companies using product branding.

The overall aim is to reduce smoking rates, which cost the country 31.5 billion Australian dollars (£20.3 billion) annually in healthcare and lost productivity costs.

Under the proposals, planned to be introduced next year, all cigarette packages in Australia will be free of logos. Instead, the brand name will be printed in a plain font.

All packets would also be the same colour, olive green, with graphic health warnings included.

Health minister Nicola Roxon said the move is a "courageous first step" by Parliament.

Tobacco companies have reacted angrily to the plans. Ms Roxon said the companies would have to live with it, while health charities pointed out that packs are designed to be attractive and communicate the "personality" of a brand, and that just as designer products are social cues to style, status, values and character, cigarettes can be "badge products".

"There isn't any safe amount of tobacco that you can smoke. It will kill you eventually and we obviously want to make sure that that message is heard loud and clear," said Ms Roxon.

Robin Hewings, Cancer Research UK's tobacco control policy manager, welcomed the news. 

"It is great news that all Australian political parties have voted for cigarettes to be put in plain packs," he said.

"The current packs are attractive to teenagers unlike new unbranded packaging in a standard colour with prominent health warnings. The Government is planning to consult on plain packaging for the UK so we should follow Australia's lead as soon as possible."

Copyright Press Association 2011