“They wouldn’t have launched their case if they thought our measures would be ineffective”: Kevin Rudd. Photo: Fairfax Media France and Ireland have agreed to join Australia and Britain in introducing plain packaging laws. Photo: Nic Walker

London: Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has hailed Britain’s move to follow Australia’s pioneering move to stare down the “merchants of death” and force tobacco companies to sell their products in ugly plain packages.

The United Kingdom officially joined Australia in introducing plain packaging on Friday, local time in a move that ended a week of major setbacks for Big Tobacco following legal losses in The Hague and the UK’s High Court.

France and Ireland have also agreed to introduce plain packaging laws.

Mr Rudd’s Labor government became the first country to legislate plain packaging in December 2012.

The former government’s laws faced a fierce backlash from the tobacco companies which took the government to several courts to try and have them overturned.

Mr Rudd said Australia’s eventual wins over the tobacco industry in the Australian High Court and this week in The Hague had paved the way for others to follow.

“When my government decided to introduce plain packaging in 2010, Big Tobacco launched an international legal challenge against them.”

“They failed in the Permanent Court of Arbitration.  They wouldn’t have launched their case if they thought our measures would be ineffective.”

“The other advantage of Australia’s  legal win is that gives confidence to all governments around the world that any plain packaging legislation they introduce cannot be overturned  by Big Tobacco.”

“Big Tobacco are merchants of death by retailing a deeply addictive and destructive drug. And the bill is paid for by grieving families, and the taxpayers of the world who have to find ballooning expenditure on public health to deal with tobacco induced diseases,” he said. 

On Thursday Britain’s High Court threw out a challenge to the UK’s laws launched by British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands who claim the laws deny their right to their own intellectual property.

In its ruling, the High Court rejected their argument and highlighted the moral dimension to the new regulations.

“It is wrong to view this issue purely in monetised terms alone,” it said.

“There is a significant moral angle which is embedded in the regulations which is about saving children from a lifetime of addiction, and children and adults from premature death and related suffering and disease.”

British public health minister Jane Ellison said the government would not allow the tobacco industry to dictate policies and hailed the ruling as “a victory for a generation that will grow up smoke-free”.

On Tuesday the Permanent Court of Arbitration said it had no jurisdiction to hear Philip Morris’ case against Australia’s laws and condemned the tobacco company’s legal tactics as “an abuse of rights.”

with Reuters

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