SYDNEY – Australia Thursday unveiled draft laws banning logos and branding from tobacco packaging -- the first government in the world to take such a stance, which will likely set lawmakers up for a pitched battle with cigarette makers.
Under the proposed laws, logos, branding, colors and promotional text will be restricted on packets, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
Product names will appear in standard colors and positions in a regular font and size.
Health warnings will have to make up 75 percent of the front of the packaging and 90 percent of the back.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the olive-colored packs with confronting pictures of rotting teeth and diseased eyes would be the toughest anti-tobacco marketing measure in the world.
She wants the packaging to be olive-green because research shows that is the least attractive color for smokers, news.com.au reported.
"This plain packaging legislation is a world first and sends a clear message that the glamor is gone -- cigarette packs will now only show the death and disease that can come from smoking," Roxon said.
She called on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to back the change in the interest of public health. A spokesman for Abbott told The Australian the Coalition was yet to decide its position.
"We do support sensible measures that are proven to lead to reduced levels of smoking but we want to wait and see the full legislation, and what evidence they are relying on that plain packaging does reduce smoking rates," he said.
Cigarette giant British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) flagged a massive legal fight against proposed plain packaging.
BATA said the government might have to pay billions of dollars in compensation to cigarette firms if it pushed ahead with the plan.
The company, whose brands include Winfield, Dunhill and Benson & Hedges, said the proposal would infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws.
"The government could end up wasting millions of taxpayers' dollars in legal fees trying to defend their decision, let alone the potential to pay billions to the tobacco industry for taking away our intellectual property," spokesman Scott McIntyre said.
The new laws will come into effect on January 1, 2012, with compliance due within six months.
New Zealand, Canada and Britain have considered a similar policy and are likely to be watching to see if Australia succeeds. BATA has called on the government to cancel its plans for plain packaging and consult with the industry.
Government figures claim 15,000 Australians die annually from smoking while tobacco-related illness costs society AU$31.5 billion (US$32.9bn) annually.