Philip Morris cigarettes charged millions after losing plain packaging case against Australia

Court of arbitration finds Philip Morris Asia case to be an abuse of rights and says it must pay Australias multi-million dollar legal costs

The tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris will be forced to pay millions of dollars in legal fees to Australia after its failed case against plain packaging laws.

Big tobacco companies have fought vigorously against the Gillard governments plain packaging laws since they were introduced in 2011.

By banning logos and distinctive-coloured cigarette packaging, Australias laws went further than the advertising bans and graphic health warnings introduced in many other countries.

Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco quickly attempted to have the laws overturned through a constitutional challenge in the high court, which they lost in 2012.

Philip Morris Asia then took a case to the permanent court of arbitration in 2012. It tried to use the conditions of a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong to argue a ban on trademarks breached foreign investment provisions.

The corporate giant not only lost but was criticised by the court, which found the case to be an abuse of rights.

The court published a decision on the payment of costs at the weekend, which it made in March. The decision, which brought five years of proceedings to a close, found Philip Morris Asia liable to pay Australias multimillion-dollar claim for legal costs.

The final costs figure was kept secret but Fairfax Media reported it as being up to $50m.

Australia successfully argued Philip Morris must pay its court fees and expenses, the cost of expert witnesses, travel, and solicitors and counsel. It also claimed interest. Australia had told the court its claim was modest and was a small proportion of what the tobacco giant had sought in damages.

It said Philip Morris had sought to challenge a public health measure of critical importance to Australia, making it important to mount a robust and comprehensive response to all aspects of the claim.

Philip Morris had tried to argue the governments costs were unreasonable for a legal team that consisted primarily of public servants.

The company argued that two similar countries, Canada and the US, had never claimed more than US$4.5m and US$3m respectively in costs and fees.

Australias claim was much more than that.

The claimant emphasizes that, even excluding the fees of four outside counsel, the respondents government lawyers claim over [redacted] in fees, even though Australia itself pays them very modest government salaries, the courts decision read.

But the court found Australias claim was reasonable, rejecting Philip Morriss arguments.

Taking into account the complexity of issues of domestic and international law relevant in this procedure, particularly for a government team usually not engaged in such disputes, the Tribunal does not consider that any of these costs claimed by the Respondent were unreasonable and should not have been incurred, it found.

In making this assessment, the Tribunal also takes into consideration the significant stakes involved in this dispute in respect of Australias economic, legal and political framework, and in particular the relevance of the outcome in respect of Australias policies in matters of public health.

Earlier this year big tobacco failed in a separate bid to have the laws overturned by the World Trade Organisation. The decision was widely seen as a green light for more countries to follow Australias lead.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/10/philip-morris-cigarettes-charged-millions-after-losing-plain-packaging-case-against-australia

Plain cigarette packaging could drive 300,000 Britons to quit smoking

Review by research organisation Cochrane suggests impact of UKs ban on branded packs could echo results seen in Australia

Plain cigarette cartons featuring large, graphic health warnings could persuade 300,000 people in the UK to quit smoking if the measure has the effect it had in Australia, scientists say.

Standardised cigarette packaging will be compulsory in the UK from 20 May. A new review from the independent health research organisation Cochrane on the impact of plain packaging around the world has found that it does affect the behaviour of smokers.

In the UK, the tobacco industry has become increasingly innovative in the design of cigarette packets as other controls on sales and advertising have taken hold, according to Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at Kings College London. The tobacco industry has been focusing its efforts on the tobacco packs, she said.

Among those that will be banned are vibrant pink packets, targeted at young women, and gimmicky cartons that slide rather than flip open. The rules that come into force next month require all packs to look alike, with graphic health warnings across 65% of their surface.

The Cochrane reviewers found 51 studies that looked at standardised packaging and its impact on smokers, but only one country had implemented the rule fully at the time. Australia brought in plain packs in 2012.

Analysing the evidence from Australia, the team found a reduction in smoking of 0.5% up to one year after the policy was introduced. According to the Australian government, that translates to 100,000 people no longer smoking. The decline was attributable specifically to plain packaging, after taking into account the continuing drop in the numbers of smokers caused by other tobacco control measures.

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the Cochrane tobacco addiction group at Oxford Universitys Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences said: We are not able to say for sure what the impact would be in the UK, but if the same magnitude of decrease was seen in the UK as was observed in Australia, this would translate to roughly 300,000 fewer smokers following the implementation of standardised packaging.

The review found signs that more people were trying to quit smoking as a result of plain cartons, rising from 20.2% before to 26.6% after introduction. There was also evidence that standardised packs were less attractive to those who did not smoke, making it less likely that they would start.

However, the researchers say variations in the way countries are introducing standardised packs may affect the outcomes. Some allow different colours, slightly different carton shapes and the use of descriptive words such as gold or smooth.

Cancer Research UK backs plain packaging. Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK every year, so we support any effective measure which can help reduce this devastating impact. The evidence shows that standardised packaging works and helps to reduce smoking rates, said George Butterworth, the charitys tobacco policy manager.

Its too soon to see the impact in the UK, as the new legislation will only be fully implemented in May, but we hope to see similar positive results as the UK strives towards a day when no child smokes tobacco. Cancer Research UK is continuing to evaluate the impact of standardised packaging in the UK and will share the lessons with other countries who are considering introducing them.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers group Forest, said the idea that plain packaging would have an impact on the number of smokers in the UK was based on hope and anecdotal evidence.

Since plain packaging was introduced in Australia, smoking rates have fallen, but only in line with historical trends, he said. Its grasping at straws to credit plain packaging with the continued reduction in smoking rates, because the most significant anti-smoking measure in recent years in Australia has been a massive increase in tobacco taxation. Like graphic health warnings, the novelty of plain packaging quickly wears off.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/27/plain-cigarette-packaging-could-drive-300000-britons-to-quit-smoking