Anti-smoking groups ask Ottawa to adopt logo ban on cigarette packs

Anti-smoking groups are urging Ottawa to follow Australia’s lead in barring tobacco companies from displaying their logos on cigarette packs.

TORONTO — Anti-smoking groups are urging Ottawa to follow Australia’s lead in barring tobacco companies from displaying their logos on cigarette packs.

Australia’s highest court on Wednesday dismissed a challenge from global tobacco manufacturers against the so-called plain packaging law.

The law requires cigarette and tobacco products to be sold in uniform olive green packets with large graphic health warnings and a standardized font for the brand name — a restriction opposed by tobacco firms, who unsuccessfully argued the law trampled their intellectual property rights.

Canadian health groups and anti-smoking advocates applauded the ruling, and pointed to the Australian decision as proof that stricter laws on package design here would withstand a Charter challenge.

Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, said Australia’s ban, now cleared to take effect Dec. 1, will boost “international momentum” in favour of plain-packaging rules currently being discussed in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Norway.

He said Ottawa should act quickly to outlaw the visual markers which he said make cigarette packages like “mini billboards” carrying messages of status and sophistication that encourage smoking.

“The brand and the logos are at the core of tobacco industry marketing. A cigarette is nothing without those intangible images,” said.

Health Canada was not immediately available for comment on the Australian ruling.

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