It looks like cigarettes are getting a brand new makeover in Australia where the highest court in the country maintained that cigarette companies can no longer display their unique logos on packaging. This means that no distinctive logo, colors or images can be used on any brand of cigarette anywhere in Australia.
Instead, starting in December, all cigarettes, from every company, will be packaged in uniform olive-colored boxes that sport graphic images of the dangers of tobacco use, such as rotted teeth and ailing children, NBC News reports. The images will also include warnings, such as “Smoking causes blindness.”
The decision was handed down Wednesday despite protests from executives of the tobacco industry who argued that the ruling could set a dangerous precedent that infringes on intellectual property rights and could cut billions of dollars from tobacco companies. Many critics also claimed that applying warnings and uniform packaging inherently favors the government’s interests, according to the BBC.
One extreme opponent of the measure even claimed that organized crime will benefit from the new measure. Scott McIntyre of British American Tobacco Australia argued that the uniform packaging will make it easier for counterfeiters to sell products on the street.
Proponents of the new measure, which was officially approved on Wednesday, argue that the decision does not contradict the Australian constitution. Authorities also argue that the packaging will reduce the number of smokers in a bid to encourage a healthier lifestyle for Australian citizens.
The move by the Australian court does set an exacting new precedent that favors the opinions of medical experts the world over for the last few decades. The caustic and debilitating effects of tobacco products on the human body have been readily established, causing one in five deaths in the United States alone. The Australian high court has obviously taken the medical community’s stance on the issue.
Global powers have been keeping an eye on the Australian legislation this entire year, awaiting Wednesday’s decision. Researchers in the United States have concluded that packaging can influence a teenager’s perception of smoking and encourage the act. As a result, the FDA in the U.S. will also mandate that graphic imagery be included on all cigarette packaging starting in September of this year. Many world powers will be keeping an eye on both Australia and the United States to see what effect the new packaging will have on smoking habits. The Guardian notes that Norway, New Zealand, Canada, India and Britain are all considering similar measures in the coming years.
While some drab packaging might not completely dissuade possible smokers from starting the habit, and may not be effective enough at stopping current smokers from indulging, the new mandates illustrate a concerted push towards highlighting the devastating effects of smoking. The decisions also strip companies of their ability to tell a story through advertising that erroneously demotes the extremely dangerous side effects of smoking.
Photo Credit: CDC PHIL