Australia sued over new packaging law

Australia sued over new packaging law

SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
Australia sued over new packaging law

AFP photo

Global tobacco giant Philip Morris said yesterday it was suing the Australian government over a new law requiring all cigarettes to be sold in plain packages.

“We are left with no option,” Philip Morris Asia (PMA) spokesperson Anne Edwards said in a statement. “The government has passed this legislation despite being unable to demonstrate that it will be effective at reducing smoking and has ignored the widespread concerns ... regarding the serious legal issues associated with plain packaging.”

Under the law, all tobacco products sold in Australia will need to be in plain packaging from Dec. 1, 2012. Cigarettes will be sold in drab, olive-brown packets with large, graphic health warnings.

The government hailed the passage of the law yesterday as “one of the most momentous public health measures in Australia’s history” and called on tobacco companies to accept the will of parliament.

PMA said it was seeking to suspend the law and wanted substantial compensation for the loss of the company’s trademarks and investments in Australia under a bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong. The company expects damages to amount to billions of dollars and that the legal process will take two to three years.

“We are confident that our legal arguments are very strong and that we will ultimately win this case,” Edwards said.

PMA’s Australian affiliate Philip Morris Limited (PML) also intends to pursue claims under domestic law before the High Court of Australia