Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist September 2012 Contents Australian Pharmacist September 2012 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 693
After months of battering by a
well-organised opposition, albeit with
simplistic, often trite criticisms -- though
nonetheless e ective -- the government
appears to be regaining some popularity.
Its decision to compromise on refugee
boats had to come, even though the PM
knew her government would have to cop
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and several
dozen other Coalition MPs did indeed,
during the Parliamentary debate about the
o shore processing laws, make predictable
remarks about back- ips, tragedies that
could have been averted and the disasters
that could have been prevented, 'had the
Labor Government simply listened to the
Coalition,' as Nationals MP John Cobb said.
But now the laws are in place and the
government can move on to deal with the
next political bush re (Remember we are
now only a year out from the next federal
election). And it can take heart that, despite
the publicity given to the nay-sayers,
the government has actually quietly put
A High Court victory for
By Mark Thornton
through the House a signi cant amount of
reform -- the most signi cant, of which has
been tobacco packaging.
Last month the High Court ruled the
Government's world- rst plain packaging
laws are constitutionally valid.
It's worth emphasising the signi cance of
the victory here. The rest of the world is
sitting up and taking notice.
Tobacco kills 15,000 Australians a year.
The most comprehensive estimates of
the total cost of tobacco use to Australian
society are those contained in studies done
by economists David Collins and Helen
Lapsley at the request of various Australian
They used a GDP-based social cost analysis
and found that in 2004--05, the social
costs of tobacco abuse totalled about
$31 billion. Now that's a boatload of money
by anyone's reckoning but, particularly
pertinent to this column, the amount
spent on pharmaceuticals in an attempt
to o set the damage to individuals' health
was $77 million. But this is a considerable
underestimate of the total costs.
So, this is a very signi cant win for the
government, former Health Minister and
now Attorney General Nicola Roxon and
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek. What's
more, Big Tobacco has been ordered to pay
the Commonwealth's legal costs.
The High Court's decision means the
Government can now impose a ban on all
brand marks and logos on cigarettes, to
take e ect from 1 December this year.
For many observers, this act alone
shows this Government is tough and
principled and by taking on the powerful
multinational tobacco industry it deserves
Indeed, the High Court's decision will have
signi cant in uence globally with the
governments of both the United Kingdom
and New Zealand considering their own
plain packaging laws.
Veteran anti-smoking campaigner and
President of the Australian Council on
Smoking and Health, Professor Mike Daube,
described the decision as: 'a massive win for
'It's the global tobacco industry's worst
defeat,' added Prof. Daube, who chaired
the Government's expert committee that
recommended plain packaging.
He said the global tobacco companies have
opposed plain packaging more ferociously
than any other measure we have seen
because they knew that plain packaging
would have a major impact on smoking
in Australia -- and that other countries
The companies' own internal documents
showed that packaging was a crucial part of
their marketing, he said.
The chief executive of the Public Health
Association of Australia, Michael Moore
said tobacco companies had used every
possible trick and mechanism to oppose
The measure 'will help prevent children
from starting to smoke and encourage
adults to quit,' Mr Moore said.
But his best quote of all is one that Ms
Roxon and Ms Plibersek should frame and
hang on the walls of their o ces.
'We can take immense heart from knowing
that even the massive resources of a global
industry cannot buy government policy or
High Court decisions.'
But let's leave the last word to Carol
Bennett, CEO of the Consumer Health
Forum. In applauding the e orts of Ms
Roxon and Ms Plibersek she said: 'They have
put in place one of the most signi cant
pieces of health legislation in history'.
Mark Thornton is a Canberra-based
journalist and was a member of
the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery
for many years.
Any opinions expressed are
not necessarily those of PSA,
its Board or staff.
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