Australian Senate passes cigarette pack reform

In collaboration with the Press Association

Britain has been urged to follow the example set by the Australian government over plans to ban logos and advertising on cigarette packets.

In a world first, this week, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's administration passed draft legislation that makes it illegal for tobacco companies to display their brand colours, designs and logos in an attempt to deter young people from taking up the habit.

As a result, as of December next year, cigarette packaging will be mundane and feature larger health warnings and vivid images of the effects of smoking-related illnesses.

The legislation is expected to become law when the House of Representatives accepts the amendment later this month. Tobacco companies have threatened legal action, claiming that the legislation would illegally diminish the value of their trademarks.

British American Tobacco Australia Ltd vowed to challenge the law in the Australian High Court and warned that the government was on "shaky legal ground".

However, health minister Nicola Roxon said the Australian Government was "determined to take away the last method of advertising" cigarettes in the country.

She added: "We're not going to be bullied into not taking this action just because tobacco companies say they might fight us in the courts. We're ready for that if they do take legal action."

Under the proposed legislation, fines of up to AU$1.1 million (£701,000) and AU$220,000 (£140,000) can be respectively imposed on a company or an individual breaching the regulation.

Cancer Research UK has praised the determination of the Australian Government and wants the UK Executive to follow suit.

Sarah Lyness, Cancer Research UK's executive director of policy and information, said: "Now that Australian legislation is well on the way to ensuring that cigarettes can only be sold in plain packaging - banning the brands and logos that attract young people to such a deadly addiction - it is vital that tobacco companies are denied any opportunity to delay the law coming into force.

"Cancer Research UK is campaigning to urge the government that Britain should follow Australia's example in protecting children from tobacco and bring in similar legislation which could save thousands of lives in future years. One in two long-term smokers will die prematurely because of tobacco, and most become addicted as children.

"It's vital that everything is done to put tobacco out of sight and out of mind to protect future generations. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK and up to nine out of 10 cases of the disease are caused by smoking."

Copyright Press Association 2011