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Australia’s New Tobacco Packaging Law Sees Mixed Responses

On the one hand, some smokers say the new labeling — complete with gruesome images — is the “final push” they need to stop. On the other hand, the illicit tobacco market is expected to grow.

What’s the Latest Development?

The world’s first law putting all tobacco products in identical plain packaging became official this past weekend in Australia. Now, when a person goes into a shop to buy a pack of cigarettes, they will find the company and brand name relegated to the bottom quarter of the package, and a health warning and often-graphic color photo taking up the remaining space. Fiona Sharkie, executive director of the anti-smoking group Quit Victoria, says, “They’re so horrifyingly ugly that they are magnificent.” In addition, the Australian government has upped the penalty for smuggling cigarettes into the country. Coincidentally, a shipment of more than 10 million illegally-branded packs was seized last week.

What’s the Big Idea?

British American Tobacco spokesman Scott McIntyre cites a Deloitte LLP report done earlier this year stating that organized crime gangs received almost $1 billion in tobacco revenue that would have gone to the government as excise tax. He adds, “We expect further growth in the black market now that all packs will be easier to copy due to plain packaging.” Philip Morris International is going so far as to pursue the case in international arbitration. Meanwhile, Sharkie reports that some callers to her organization’s hotline say the packaging is the “final push” motivating them to stop smoking.

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