As it was expected, Ukraine has submitted a complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the Australian government’s legislation banning logos and branding of cigarettes and other tobacco products on the grounds that the measure is an infringement of the international regulations on intellectual property.
Australia became the first country across the world to oblige cigarette makers pack their products in identical generic packs. From December 1st, 2012, cigarettes will be selling in olive-colored packs, lacking any logos or images, besides the graphic health warning labels. The world’s leading tobacco companies , among which are British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International, have pledged to contest the legislation, which Australian lawmakers plan to extend to comprise loose tobacco and cigars.
Ukraine states the peer-reviewed evidence on which the legislation is based is arguable and not sufficient, while plain-packaging regulations will not help to meet the country’s public health goals, but simply contribute to growth of the black market of fake cigarettes.
Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson admitted that the government has been discussing the plain-packaging ordinance with WTO members and is ready to take part in consultations, if they are held in a constructive manner.
According to the Australian government, more than 10,000 adults die each year due to smoking and more than $30billion are spent in health care costs. As 15 percent of adult Australians are smoking, tobacco products are considered one of the leading preventable health issues in the country.
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, introduced by the World Health Organization and ratified by more than 100 countries, comprises measures on pricing factors resulting in decreased demand as well as promoting packaging and labeling restrictions.
While the first international convention on curbing tobacco use does not specify that trademarks and logos should be banned, it obliges signatories to guarantee that tobacco packaging does not market tobacco in any way that is “misleading, false, deceptive or leading to creation of an inaccurate impression about its properties, health effects, dangers or emissions’.
Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, claimed last year that tobacco groups were picking on Australian government, as well as Uruguay and Norway attempting to stop the new packaging rules.
The query for consultations with both parties is the first step in the complaint hearing, meaning that Ukraine and Australia should have negotiations for approximately two months, in a bid to find a solution in the dispute. In case it would not be found, Ukraine would request WTO judges to decide.