New Zealand Ready—but Waiting—to Follow Australia’s Lead Against Smoking

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Australia’s smokers had to start purchasing cigarette packs with extremely graphic images on the front last December, which did not sit well with the world’s Big Tobacco companies, whose lawyers have been set loose to try and repeal the Aussies’ anti-smoking efforts. Now, New Zealand is ready to enact a similar effort that will remove branding from cigarette packages and sell them with plain wrapping.

New Zealand, however, won’t push forward with the practice until it sees how all that legal wrangling works out for its larger neighbor.

“This announcement demonstrates that the New Zealand government recognizes the significant international trade issues with standardized packaging and will not implement it until the pending international legal challenges to Australia’s law are resolved,” Philip Morris said in a statement. “There is no credible evidence that standardized packaging will lower smoking rates, but strong evidence that it will jeopardize jobs, benefit the black market for cigarettes, and is a breach of international trade rules that have already made Australia’s policy subject to WTO action.”

The WTO actions were set in motion by a few nations that happen to be—surprise!—big producers of tobacco: Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Indonesia.[more]

Big Tobacco feels that these nations should attempt to create greater public health awareness “without unnecessarily restricting international trade and without nullifying intellectual property rights,” CBS reports. Meanwhile, New Zealand, Norway and Uruguay are backing Australia in the battle. Uruguay went so far as to call smoking “the most serious pandemic confronting humanity.” [more]

America’s FDA, of course, has been trying to get cigarette packaging to feature some pretty nasty images as well. The labels were set to debut in the fall of 2012, however Big Tobacco won an injunction against the graphic images, then sealed the deal last summer when a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided against the FDA, but the U.S. fight is far from over. 

Last March, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld that the graphics were constitutional, while in October, the FDA filed a petition to have all eight judges of the D.C. Appeals Court hear the case, which was denied, and now needs to decide whether it would like to take that case to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO), told Convenience Store Decisions that the tobacco industry has filed a petition with the Supreme Court to review the Cincinnati court’s decision.

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