Plain packaging legislation receives the Royal Assent
The Australian Government's world first legislation to require all tobacco to be sold in plain packaging received the Royal Assent on 1 December 2011.
Following Government amendments, the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 will require that all tobacco products sold in Australia are in plain packaging by 1 December 2012.
The legislation bans the use of logos, brand imagery, symbols, other images, colours and promotional text on tobacco products and tobacco product packaging. The packaging must be a standard drab dark brown colour in matt finish.
The only thing on the packs to distinguish one brand from another will be the brand and product name in a standard colour, position, font size and style.
This new law aims to:
- reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products to consumers, particularly young people;
- increase the noticeability and effectiveness of mandated health warnings; and
reduce the ability of the retail packaging of tobacco products to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking or using tobacco products.
The new plain packaging laws will contribute to the Australian Government’s comprehensive package of efforts to reduce smoking rates as agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2008. Through the National Healthcare Agreement, COAG set targets of reducing the adult daily smoking rate to 10 per cent by 2018, and halving the rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The legislation gives effect to obligations and recommendations of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The Australian Government’s comprehensive reforms to reduce smoking and its harmful effects also include:
- an increase in the tobacco excise of 25 per cent in April 2010;
- legislation to restrict internet advertising of tobacco products in Australia;
- more than $85 million in anti-smoking social marketing campaigns, including $27.8 million for campaigns targeted at high-risk and highly disadvantaged groups who are hard to reach through mainstream campaigns;
- $5 million in additional support for the Quitline;
- Extended listings of nicotine replacement therapies and other smoking cessation supports on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme; and
- Record levels of support for Indigenous communities to reduce smoking rates, through the Indigenous Tobacco Control Initiative and the COAG closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes National Partnership Agreement.
Trade marksTobacco trade mark owners’ rights to register, maintain and protect their trade marks are preserved through section 28 of the Act, with an additional level of assurance for tobacco trade mark owners and applicants provided by the accompanying Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Act 2011.
Penalties & infringement noticesThe penalties applied to offences in the Act are based on the penalties set out in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. This is to ensure that penalties for a breach of plain packaging requirements are similar to the penalties that could be applied under the Australian Consumer Law for a breach of the requirements to display graphic health warnings. Under this Act:
- the maximum penalty amount for a fault-based criminal offence committed by an individual is 2,000 penalty units (currently $220,000), and for a breach by a body corporate is 10,000 penalty units (currently $1.1 million);
- the maximum penalty amount for a strict-liability criminal offence committed by an individual is 60 penalty units (currently $6,600) and committed by a body corporate is 300 penalty units (currently $33,000); and
- the maximum civil penalty that may be awarded is the same as for fault-based criminal offences. No conviction may be recorded for a breach of civil penalty provisions.
The Act also establishes an infringement notice scheme that allows infringement notices to be issued to an individual or to a body corporate suspected of having committed a strict liability offence. The maximum amount of an infringement notice for an individual is 12 penalty units (currently $1,320) and the amount for a body corporate is 60 penalty units (currently $6,600).
Tobacco Plain Packaging RegulationsThe Tobacco Plain Packaging Regulations 2011 as they relate to cigarette products were made by the Executive Council on 7 December 2011, and are available from http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2011L02644.
The proposed Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Regulation 2012 (‘Amendment Regulation’), incorporating requirements for non-cigarette tobacco products, is now available below. Approval of the Amendment Regulation will be considered at an upcoming Executive Council meeting.
Approval by the Executive Council constitutes the ‘making’ of the Amendment Regulation. Once made, the Amendment Regulation will amend the Tobacco Plain Packaging Regulations 2011 to incorporate the changes and additional provisions described in the Amendment Regulation.
Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Regulation 2012 (PDF 105 KB)
Interested parties should be aware that the option to cover non-compliant packaging with adhesive material in the specified drab dark brown colour that was proposed in the initial consultation paper on non-cigarette tobacco products (‘overstickering’) is not permitted in the proposed Amendment Regulation (and was not permitted in the draft of the Amendment Regulation that was released for public consultation on 23 December 2011). The decision not to allow overstickering was made by the Government following strong broad-based feedback in the consultation process that it would not be practical.
As a result, retail packaging for non-cigarette tobacco products will have to be purpose-made to comply with the plain packaging requirements, consistent with the approach taken to the plain packaging of cigarettes. Tobacco products that are imported in non-compliant packaging will need to be repackaged into compliant packaging before being sold in Australia.
Market Research Reports on tobacco plain packaging and graphic health warningsIn developing the plain packaging design and to inform the development of new graphic health warnings, the Government commissioned a number of market research reports testing of the impacts of plain packaging and new graphic health warnings. These research reports are publicly available from: http://www.yourhealth.gov.au/internet/yourhealth/publishing.nsf/Content/mr-plainpack.
New tobacco graphic health warningsGraphic health warnings on tobacco products have been updated and expanded alongside the move to plain packaging. Under the new Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard 2011 (the Standard), which commenced on 1 January 2012, the graphic health warnings on cigarette packs have been expanded to cover 75 per cent of the front of packs, replacing the previous 30 per cent requirement. A commensurate increase has been made to health warning requirements on other tobacco products.
National Tobacco CampaignsTo curb tobacco smoking rates, the Government is investing record levels of funding in anti-smoking social marketing campaigns, including the National Tobacco Campaign 2011, the More Targeted Approaches Campaign and the Break the Chain Campaign.
Break the Chain is Australia’s first ever national public health television campaign specifically produced for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The More Targeted Approaches Campaign extends mainstream anti-tobacco advertising to focus on high risk and hard to reach groups, including pregnant women and their partners; people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; people living in disadvantaged areas; people with mental illness and prisoners.
Related media releases1 December 2011
1 Year for Big Tobacco to Get Plain Packs Into Gear
21 November 2011
Parliament Passes World First Plain Packaging of Tobacco Legislation
10 November 2011
Senate Passes World First Plain Packaging of Tobacco Legislation
2 November 2011
Amendments to Tobacco Plain Packaging Start Date
18 October 2011
Opening Address to the 2011 Oceania Tobacco Control Conference – ‘Burying the Habit: Moving to a Tobacco-free Future
12 October 2011
Senate Stalls World First Tobacco Legislation
3 October 2011
Plain Packaging Options for Non-cigarette Tobacco Products
21 September 2011
Australia Supports Global Action on Tobacco
19 September 2011
Speech to the United Nations on Non-Communicable Diseases
17 September 2011
Confronting new tobacco health warnings
24 August 2011
World-Leading Plain Packaging Legislation Passes House of Representatives
6 July 2011
Leading the World on Tobacco Plain Packaging
31 May 2011
Sign up to Support the Plain Packaging Pledge World No Tobacco Day
07 April 2011
World's Toughest Anti-Smoking Laws Released
The Tobacco Plain Packaging Information Kit provides practical information on the responsibilities and obligations of retailers and other suppliers of tobacco products under the new Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011.
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On 20 April 2012, the Prime Minister and Minister Butler unveiled a comprehensive package of reforms to build a better, fairer, more sustainable and more nationally consistent aged care system.