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Plain tobacco packaging in Australia: 26 months on
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  1. Simon Chapman
  1. Correspondence to Dr Simon Chapman, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, A27, NSW 2006, Australia; simon.chapman{at}sydney.edu.au

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After a series of false starts, the British government announced that it will bring forward a vote for the plain packaging of tobacco products before the May general election. With extensive support across all three major parties, the Bill is expected to pass easily into law, making Britain the second nation after Australia to take this step. Ten others have indicated their interest in taking the same action, with Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Turkey being most advanced.

Australia fully implemented its law on plain packaging on 1 December 2012 after it was introduced, unopposed by the Liberal opposition, by the Rudd Labor government, almost a quarter of a century after plain packaging as an approach to tobacco control was first proposed by a Canadian physician Gerry Karr.1 Progress from idea to implementation was significantly slowed down by the tobacco industry, concerned about any threat to its profitability. So what were the arguments against such an obvious public health measure, why did it all take so long and what has happened since?

Details of the tobacco industry's dogged campaign, the arguments used for plain packs in Australia and the often absurd and evidence-free claims produced by the ‘other side’ have recently been set out in an open access book.2 The long journey towards Australia's ‘plain packaging law’ has even included presenting legal arguments to Australia's high court suggesting that the Australian government, by mandating plain packaging, …

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