Ukraine has suspended the legal proceedings it brought against Australia through the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2012, which claimed the country’s plain-packaging laws were trade-restrictive. Instead, the Eastern European nation—which received financial support from British American Tobacco to pursue litigation—has stated it will attempt to seek a mutually agreed-upon solution with Australia to resolve the issue.
Ukraine was the first of five countries to challenge Australia’s plain-packaging laws at the WTO, despite the fact that Ukraine does not currently export tobacco to Australia. The other countries who have launched lawsuits against Australia—Indonesia, Cuba, Honduras and the Dominican Republic—have not announced any plans to drop their lawsuits challenging the strict packaging laws banning company logos and requiring cigarettes to be sold in olive-colored packages with brand names printed in standardized fonts.
According to WTO rules, Ukraine’s suspension could last one year, after which time its right to return to the panel proceedings will lapse. The WTO adjudication panel is expected to rule on the remaining plain-packaging lawsuits in the first half of 2016.
The price of a pack of cigarettes will rise by about $0.07 next year in Australia, according to a story in the Herald Sun.
The increase will see the government face a potential re-election tussle with tobacco companies and retailers, who are still smarting over plain packaging laws.
Cigarettes were the only sin tax targeted by Treasurer Wayne Swan’s big-cutting budget. Last year’s budget saw an increase on taxes on beer and cut the number of duty-free cigarettes Australians could bring home after travelling overseas.
The duty free cuts last year were set to raise $175 million by 2015.
A pack of 25 cigarettes will be $0.07 more expensive from the first half of 2014, after a change in indexation that sees tobacco excise keep pace with salary rises. Budget papers did not reveal how much this would raise.
A call by the Cancer Council for smoking to be banned at all West Australian (WA) mines sites has been rejected, according to an Australian Associated Press report.
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) has said that a ban would cause resentment.
WA’s Department of Mines and Petroleum data show smoking rates in the mining sector are almost double the national average.
The CME’s manager of occupational health and safety, Richard Wilson, was quoted as saying that public health campaigners needed to design strategies to improve the health of the whole population, not target specific industries.
“Singling out one sector above others just causes resentment amongst people in that industry and fails to improve health outcomes across the population,” Wilson said.
Cuba has become the latest country to launch a legal attack on Australia’s landmark plain packaging rules for tobacco at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The laws came into effect last December and mean cigarettes can only be sold in brown packages with graphic health warnings. The WTO says Cuba has requested consultations with Australia on the legislation, which covers all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. Under the 159-nation WTO’s rules, requesting consultations is the first step in an often complex trade dispute settlement process which can last for several years.
The laws have already been challenged at the WTO by Cuba’s fellow cigar-producing nations Honduras and the Dominican Republic. In addition, the Ukraine has filed a suit at the Geneva-based body, which oversees its member nations’ respect for the rules of global commerce, according to the Australian news company ABC.
All the plaintiff countries maintain that Australia’s packaging law breaches international trade rules and intellectual property rights.
In the event that the WTO’s disputes settlement body finds in their favor, it would have the power to authorize retaliatory trade measures against Australia if the country failed to fall into line. The dispute with Australia marks the first-ever challenge by Cuba against a fellow member since it joined the global body in April 1995, four months after the WTO was founded in its current form.
The plain packaging laws have won wide praise from health organizations which are trying to curb smoking. But the government has faced a string of court challenges from tobacco firms.
Besides trade and intellectual property concerns, tobacco companies say there is no proof that plain packaging reduces smoking and have warned that the law sets a precedent that could spread to products such as alcohol.
An Australian superannuation and investment fund is leading an international effort to pressure a Norwegian machinery maker to leave the tobacco industry.
In what amounts to a new front in the war against tobacco, Australian Ethical will put forward a resolution on Monday at the annual general meeting of Norwegian company TOMRA, demanding it stop selling tobacco sorting machines.
Australian Ethical, which manages more than $600 million on behalf of about 18,000 investors, has long invested in TOMRA, which makes machinery used in recycling.
Last year, when TOMRA bought Best Sorting, a Belgian company that makes tobacco sorting machines, Australian Ethical wrote to TOMRA, asking it to get out of the area. When it refused, Australian Ethical approached other investors in the company for support.
The resolution calls on the company to stop selling tobacco sorting machines to the tobacco industry within six months. If the resolution received majority support, it would be binding on the company. If it fails, Australian Ethical will sell its stake in TOMRA.
In February the Future Fund announced it would sell its tobacco investments - valued then at about $222 million – citing the damaging health effects and addictive properties of tobacco.
A major research project has found that Australians have cut down on smoking and drinking, but they’ve gained weight and become more anxious.
A survey by Roy Morgan Research of 50,000 Australians every year, over five years, has found 1.1 million fewer glasses of alcoholic drinks are being consumed a week and 134,000 fewer people smoke compared with 2007, according to a story posted on the Sky News website.
But CEO Michele Levine says the bad news is that 736,000 more adults are obese and the number of people with anxiety has increased by 1.3 million.
Roy Morgan Research collaborated with Alere healthcare company to establish the Alere Wellness Index.
The results are based on 1,800 questions put to 50,000 people a year, every year, for the past five years.