The Australian government announced on Thursday strict new restrictions on tobacco packaging and advertising, and a higher tax on tobacco products. Tobacco companies are highly critical of the proposed packaging rule, which would make Australia the first nation to require that cigarettes come in plain boxes, free of colorful brand names or images. Philip Morris and British American Tobacco both questioned whether the packaging rules would comply with international trade agreements but have not said whether they will challenge the new rule in court, The New York Times reports.
The World Health Organization called Australia’s action a “major breakthrough,” and officials described cigarette packaging as “one of the last remaining frontiers for cigarette advertising.”
The Australian government must submit the packaging proposal to Parliament, where it is presumed it will have enough votes to pass, The Times reports. If adopted, the stripped-down packaging would be required starting July 1, 2012.