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Australia’s plans for cigarette packaging rankle tobacco company

Cigarette packages in the U.S. are about to be emblazoned with graphic, bordering on gory, images highlighting the dangers of smoking. But what really irks one tobacco giant is the prospect of gory but plain (i.e. brandless) labels, an anti-smoking measure about to be launched in Australia.

Philip Morris Asia has threatened to sue the Australian government, saying its plan would hinder the company’s ability to differentiate its products from other brands, according to media reports.

The Australian government counters that taking away brand-name appeal would cut down on smoking rates in the country and save money on healthcare. The proposed laws, which would take effect in January, would require packaging to be a drab, olive green color with standardized font and colors for brand and product names. That’s in addition to the gory labels already on Australian cigarette packages.

In this country and elsewhere around the globe, cigarette packages are being designed to grab consumers’ attention, as health officials seek more dramatic ways of conveying that smoking is harmful (at least, more eye-catching than small-font warnings from the surgeon general). The FDA unveiled new, graphic photos last week to be emblazoned on cigarette packs in fall 2012, including those of cadavers and toddlers surrounded by smoke.

Whether the packages work in the U.S. remains to be seen—a Booster Shots post from HealthKey blogger Chris Woolston last week had this to say:

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“Smokers won’t learn anything new, but there’s a good chance that some of them will be inspired to give up the habit, or at least smoke less.”

If Australia’s laws take effect – and have an impact – the FDA can always get tips from Down Under if the new photos don’t go far enough.

healthkey@tribune.com

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