News

10-year anniversary for plain packaging legislation in Australia – now an international success

MEDIA RELEASE

Today marks the 10th anniversary of legislation for Australia’s world-leading tobacco plain packaging.

“This groundbreaking legislation was bitterly opposed by the tobacco industry – and for good reason”, said Maurice Swanson, Chief Executive, Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH).

“Once Australia showed that it was possible, other countries followed – a recent report from the Canadian Cancer Society shows that just ten years on no less than 21 countries and territories have adopted plain packaging, and another 17 are on the way.[i]

Plain packaging, which ended the tobacco industry’s use of cigarette packs as tobacco advertisements, and requires all packs to display large graphic health warnings on a plain background, has proven successful in Australia by reducing the appeal of cigarettes to children and young people and reducing the uptake of smoking by young non-smokers.[ii]

“It is immensely rewarding to see that the successful implementation of plain packaging by Australia has led to a tremendous momentum internationally for this important evidence-based strategy to reduce smoking,” said Mr Swanson.

“Both sides of politics in Australia are to be congratulated on first introducing this legislation, then supporting it against fierce opposition, including desperate tobacco industry legal actions nationally and internationally.

“But Australia now needs to raise its game in other aspects of tobacco control. ACOSH is calling on the Federal Government to re-instate Australia’s national media campaigns on tobacco, which have been shelved for nearly a decade. That is an area where Australia also used to lead the world, but has now fallen well behind – while the Government still rakes in $15bn a year from tobacco tax.

“We also need to see a much stronger comprehensive national program, new and stronger legislation to control the contents and design of all addictive tobacco products, banning all remaining tobacco industry marketing and political donations; major new programs for priority groups; adequate cessation support for all smokers; and holding the tobacco industry accountable for healthcare costs.

“Plain packaging has been a major Australian success story with a global impact – but we cannot be complacent, while cigarettes cause more than 20,000 Australian deaths each year. Big Tobacco is still doing everything it can to sell its lethal products, including manipulating the design and content of cigarettes, with flavours and novel filters, to addict young non-smokers and make it more difficult for regular smokers to quit, and extensive marketing through social media.

“We know that there is public support for more and stronger action for measures such as phasing out commercial sales of cigarettes. Ten years on from the plain packaging legislation, it’s time for Australia to reclaim its leadership role,” said Mr Swanson.

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The Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) is an independent, non-government, not for profit coalition established in 1971, and represents a further 35 prominent health and community organisations with a shared concern about smoking and its harmful consequences.

ACOSH has been a leading advocate for all the regulatory and legislative changes to reduce the impact of smoking on the Australian community, and proudly supported by the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation – Healthway.

[i] Canadian Cancer Society. Cigarette Package Health Warnings International Status Report. Seventh Edition. October 2021. Available from https://cdn.cancer.ca/-/media/files/about-us/media-releases/2021/cigarette-health-warnings-report/ccs-international-warnings-report-2021.pdf?_ga=2.145717300.1874953183.1636941003-1757101087.1636941003

[ii] Greenhalgh, EM & Scollo, MM. InDepth 11A.9 Real-world research on the effects of plain packaging. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2019. Available from  http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-11-advertising/11a-9-real-world-research-on-the-effects-of-plain-