Plain packaging issue becoming a little more complex in Australia

| January 3, 2013

The Australian government is issuing threats about what it sees as attempts to circumvent the ‘plain’ packaging laws that it imposed from December 1.

But it is not entirely clear who it is threatening or what laws those being threatened are alleged to have broken.

An Australian Associated Press story quoted the federal Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, as saying that ‘tobacco companies’ that try to circumvent the law with branded tins or stickers that hide graphic warnings would face legal action.

But there seems to be no suggestion that tobacco manufacturers aren’t being fully compliant with the packaging regulations, and it is them that produce the packs.

But the story then quotes Plibersek as saying: “If ‘people’ deliberately flout these laws, then we will consider and potentially take legal action against them”.

And later in the story Plibersek is quoted as saying that the government was willing to take ‘companies’ to court to make sure they complied with packaging laws.

While the story describes how one printing company has begun to sell stickers to cover the graphic warnings that form a large part of the so-called plain packs, it was not made clear whether this is in contravention of the law that imposed plain packaging, some other law, or no law.

And anyway, while the health minister is said to have received 14 complaints, all of those complaints apparently have been about ‘retailers’; and she seems not to be too concerned about retailers. “Where we’re able to educate and change public behavior – with shopkeepers, for example – then there’s no need for legal action,” Plibersek said.

“But if we have ‘large companies’ that deliberately look for ways to circumvent plain packaging, then I’ll have no hesitation in taking legal action against them.”

The story makes the point that ‘individuals who do not comply’ could face fines of up to $220,000, while companies risk penalties of up to $1.1 million’.

Category: Breaking News

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