Philip Morris Ignites Legal Battle With Aussies

Cigarette maker challenges new legislation

The Australian government will make you think twice before lighting up. Lawmakers in Canberra have plans to remove all types of branding from cigarette packaging, replacing it with gruesome color photos of the ill effects of smoking. Tobacco monolith Philip Morris is the first cigarette maker to strike back, initiating legal action against the Australian government.

Haunting images of cancer-stricken lips and hospitalized children are a scare tactic central to the new legislation, which will be introduced to parliament in July. The aggressive campaign to deter smokers will stifle tobacco companies by banning the use of logos and promotional text. "This move…would essentially amount to confiscation of our brand in Australia," a Philip Morris spokesperson said.

Philip Morris is arguing that the proposed legislation violates a bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong, where Philip Morris’ regional parent resides.  The company’s formal complaint opens a three-month negotiation period before any move toward arbitration can take place. The Australian government said that it is not breaking any law with the proposal and plans to stand firm on this issue. If the law is passed, it will make Australia possibly the world’s most stringent country on tobacco advertising.