Australia seeks world backing on tobacco legal fight

Source: Reuters

Smoke in black and witheAustralia is confident the world’s toughest anti-tobacco laws will soon pass parliament, but the government warned on Thursday that the anti-smoking fight was not over and urged other nations to reject a possible WTO challenge backed by big tobacco.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the minority government was bracing not only for a court challenge to its plan to force cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging from 2012, but also an intellectual property dispute at the World Trade Organization.

“A tobacco company themselves can’t bring a claim in the WTO. A state has to do that,” Roxon told Reuters in an interview.

“I won’t be surprised if tobacco companies are out there looking for a country to claim on their behalf, and we urge countries not to do that.”

The new laws, expected to easily pass parliament next week with backing from the conservative opposition and Green crossbench senators, are being closely watched by New Zealand, Canada, the European Union and Britain, which are considering similar restrictions.

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