Tobacco laws will only be positive: health expert

Talks that legislation enforcing plain packaging for tobacco products would bring about a black market are absolute nonsense, says a leading health expert who is welcoming the proposed changes.

Professor Mike Daube, deputy chair of the National Preventative Health Taskforce said it is possible to gauge the positive impact of the proposed legislation by the commotion the tobacco industry kicks up.

Tobacco giants – as well as the Australian Retailers Association, have both opposed the legislation, with all parties saying that a black market may become more prominent if packaging is streamlined – a notion Professor said was “nonsense”.

“The tobacco industry vastly overstates the black market,” Professor Daube said.

“You might see it being more plausible in Europe, but in Australia there isn’t a significant black market.”

Health Minister Nicola Roxon today announced she will begin pushing through legislation that will require all tobacco packaging to be the same olive green colour, with the brand name printed in a specified font.

Tobacco giant British American Tobacco Australia immediately slammed the proposal on the basis that it would infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws.

Spokesman Scott McIntyre said the government could end up wasting millions of taxpayer dollars trying to defend their decision.

But Professor Daube, whose taskforce recommended this legislation be introduced, said he remained extremely optimistic that it would pass through all the appropriate channels, and be in force by next year.

He said he knew they were onto a good thing when the tobacco industry voiced their fury over the legislation, and said that while he believed it would eventually pass, there would be a fight ahead for the federal government.

“The tobacco industry will get up to its usual tricks,” he said.

“They denied smoking was harmful for years, and I don’t think they have much credibility anymore.”

He said there is no question that the plain packaging would have a positive impact on smoking rates for both children and adults, and said it was important that this last piece of advertising be taken away from the tobacco companies.

“There is no reason why there should be any advertising for a product that kills one in two of its regular users,” he said.

New Zealand, Canada and the UK have previously considered a similar policy, and will be keeping a close eye on Australia to see if it succeeds.


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