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Philip Morris launches legal action against Australia; similar to Uruguayan case

Friday, July 1st 2011 - 06:39 UTC
Full article 7 comments
We're not going to be intimidated by big tobacco's tactics, said MP Julia Gillard We're not going to be intimidated by big tobacco's tactics, said MP Julia Gillard

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International launched legal action this week against the Australian government over the country's plans to strip company logos from cigarette packages and replace them with grisly images of cancerous mouths, sickly children and bulging, blinded eyes.

The government believes the new rules will make the packages less attractive to smokers and turn Australia into the world's toughest country on tobacco advertising.

Australia thus joins Uruguay, Brazil and in the coming weeks the United States in an aggressively exposing the consequences of smoking.

Several outraged cigarette makers have threatened lawsuits, arguing the move illegally diminishes the value of their trademarks. Philip Morris International Inc. is the first of those companies to file a claim for compensation.

“We would anticipate that the compensation would amount to billions,” Philip Morris International spokeswoman Anne Edwards.

The legislation, which will be introduced to Parliament in July, would ban cigarette makers from printing their logos, promotional text or colourful images on cigarette packs. Brand names will instead be printed in a small, uniform font and feature large health warnings and gruesome, full-colour images of the consequences of smoking.

Hong Kong-based Philip Morris Asia Limited, which owns the Australian affiliate Philip Morris Limited, filed a notice of claim last Monday arguing the legislation violates a bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong.

The tobacco company says the treaty protects companies' property, including intellectual property such as trademarks. The plain packaging proposal severely diminishes the value of the company's trademark, Edwards said.

“Our brands are really one of the absolute key valuable assets that we have as a company — it's what helps us compete, it's what enables us to distinguish our products,” Edwards said. “This move ... would essentially amount to confiscation of our brand in Australia.”

The Australian government denied the plan breaks any laws and said it would not back down.

“Our government is determined to take every step we can to reduce the harm by tobacco,” Health Minister Nicola Roxon said. “We won't be deterred by tobacco companies making threats or taking legal action.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard also brushed off Philip Morris International's threats. “We're not going to be intimidated by big tobacco's tactics,” she told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Similar steps are being taken in the US, where cigarette packs will soon feature new warning labels with graphic images of the negative health effects of smoking, including diseased lungs and the sewn-up corpse of a smoker.

The labels also feature phrases like “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes cause cancer.” They will take up the top half, both front and back, of a pack of cigarettes and be featured in advertisements.

The labels are a part of a campaign by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that aims to convey the dangers of tobacco, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths in the US a year. The warnings must appear on cigarette packs by the fall of 2012.

In South America Uruguay's government requires that 80% of the front and back of all cigarettes packages be devoted to warnings. In Brazil, labels feature graphic images of dead foetuses, haemorrhaging brains and gangrened feet.

Philips Morris has also initiated legal action against Uruguay.


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  • GeoffWard2

    If the cigarette packages showed REAL images of a face half eaten away with rampant cancer it would not matter whether the name was present or not.
    In fact, REAL images across the whole pack would pretty soon force the company into bankrupcy.

    I have seen ALL those of my family who became hooked on nicotine die this agonizing death. I have watched their bodies rot from the inside, and smelt them rot over the many months that it took them to die.

    In years to come our grandchildren will be open-mouthed with disbelief when they are told that companies were allowed to sell this powerful cocktail of drugs to hook people into dependency whilst the product took its time to chronically kill their lungs and acutely bring them to death with their body being eaten away from the inside - a living rotting death.

    The zombie films are nothing less than the reality for people so hooked and suffering;
    it is, indeed, a living death of addiction extending over sufficient time to bring huge profits to the people running these 'drug-death' companies.

    Jul 01st, 2011 - 03:16 pm 0
  • lsolde

    Well said, Geoff. lt is a disgusting stinking habit. lt costs countries a lot of money to pick up the pieces & the tobacco companies just laugh all the way to the bank. They should be the ones being sued.

    Jul 02nd, 2011 - 10:57 am 0
  • Fido Dido

    Well said Geotard, no wonder brits are ugly from the outside and inside. They should stop smoking.

    Jul 02nd, 2011 - 03:49 pm 0
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