Plain Packaging in Australia

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Arguments against plain packaging have been prominent on industry websites. Screengrab from BAT Australia campaign website

On 21 November 2011, the Australian Parliament passed the government’s proposed plain packaging legislation, and as a result, since 1 December 2012, all tobacco products sold in Australia must be in plain packaging.1 The legislation bans the use of logos, brand imagery, symbols, other images, colours and promotional text on tobacco products and tobacco product packaging, and the packaging must be a standard drab olive green colour in a standard matt finish.2
In December 2011, talking about the impending legislation Nicola Roxon, Australian Minister for Health and Ageing said:

We know that packaging remains one of the last powerful marketing tools for tobacco companies to recruit new smokers to their deadly products, but now cigarette packets will only serve as a stark reminder of the devastating health effects of smoking.” 3

Australia was the first country in the world to impose plain packaging laws in 2012. However, proposals to introduce plain packaging (also known as generic packaging and standardised packaging) in Australia date back to the early 1990s (See History of Plain Packaging: Developing the Intellectual Property Argument). As a result, many of the anti-plain packaging tactics employed by the tobacco industry across the world have been seen in Australia first.
In response to the plans, the tobacco industry launched a multi-million dollar media and lobbying campaign, using many of its well-established tactics, listed on our Plain Packaging and Industry Arguments Against Plain Packaging pages. Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald reported that British American Tobacco (BAT) Australia had spent AUD 4.5 million (almost £3 million) on its campaign against plain packaging.4

On 9 June 2020, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a final ruling affirming that Australia’s plain packaging for tobacco products is entirely consistent with WTO agreements.5 This ruling ends a long dispute against Australia’s plain packaging which started in 2012 when four countries, Honduras, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, filed complaints. These complaints were first dismissed in June 2018. Honduras and Dominican Republic appealed, and the June 2020 ruling finally confirmed that plain packaging laws are both scientifically and legally sound. It was reported that those countries received technical and financial support from BAT and PMI to bring their complaints.6

JTI had a number of consultancies commissioned that all came with reports warning against graphic health warnings and plain packaging. Find out more about this tactic on the JTI page

TobaccoTactics Resources

Listed below are the tactics that the tobacco industry has employed to try to prevent, delay and amend plain packaging laws in Australia.

* Countering Industry Arguments against Plain Packaging

* Have Illicit Levels Risen in Australia?

* Campaigning websites

* International lobbying

* Trademark claims and other legal threats

* Economic threats

* Smuggling and illicit trade threats

* Astroturfing

* Funding Think Tanks and Hiring Independent Experts

* Freedom of Information Requests

* Challenging Legislation

* Imperial Tobacco Australia Pre-empts Legislation

* BAT Funded Lobbying Against Plain Packaging

* Alliance of Australian Retailers

* Stefan Fitz

Visit our plain packaging page list for a comprehensive list of all plain packaging information stored on

External Links

* Cancer Council Australia’s Plain facts website provides up to date information on the impacts of plain packaging in Australia and provides critiques of tobacco industry reports claiming that plain packaging in Australia has not been successful.

* Special edition of Tobacco Control journal with peer-reviewed studies evaluating the impact of plain packaging legislation in Australia, published in March 2015.

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  1. Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Parliament Passes World’s First Plain Packaging of Tobacco Legislation, Minister for Health and Ageing, Media Release, 21 November 2011, accessed 28 November 2011
  2. Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Plain packaging legislation receives the Royal Assent Media Release, 1 December 2011, accessed 1 December 2011
  3. Hon Nicola Roxon MP, 1 Year for Big Tobacco to Get Plain Packs Into Gear Media Release, 1 December 2011, accessed 15 December 2011
  4. Lobbyists unmasked, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2012, accessed April 2012
  5. World Trade Organization, Appellate Body issues reports regarding tobacco plain packaging requirements, 9 June 2020, accessed June 2020
  6. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Australia – tobacco plain packaging, July 2018, accessed in June 2020