After long debates, strong pressure from the tobacco industry that went as far as to the country’s High Court, Australia becomes today the first country in the world to sell its cigarettes in plain packaging. Consisting of a standard shape without branding, design, logo or any promotional text, and the brand name appearing in a standard type, format and colour (olive green), plain packaging aims to reduce the lethal product attractiveness and appeal to children and young people in particular, as well as to increase the visibility and therefore effectiveness of health warnings.

Even before Malta’s Tonio Borg was, last November 28, appointed as new EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer protection, he committed to promptly launch the inter-service consultation on the revised Tobacco Products Directive aimed at having it released by January 2013. The European public health community hopes that the EU, after a long delay, upgrades existing tobacco policies and follows the Australian example. Worldwide, one person is dying every six seconds as a result of tobacco use. How long must Europe wait for and how many more deaths must happen before more tobacco controls are implemented?

- Why additional instruments on tobacco control are NEEDED?

. “Tobacco use continues to be the leading global cause of preventable death. It kills nearly 6 million people and causes hundreds of billions of dollars of economic damage worldwide each year,” WHO Report On The Global Tobacco Epidemic 2011

. “Every year 695,000 Europeans die prematurely through tobacco-related causes. It is estimated that, in terms of economic impact, smoking costs the EU countries at least €100 billion,Special Eurobarometer, Attitudes of Europeans Towards Tobacco - May 2012

. “Teenagers (13-18) and children (<13) are inherently important to the tobacco market and companies are competing for market share in these age groups,“ World Health Organisation - Report: Tobacco Explained.

- Australia’s adoption of Cigarette plain packaging in the MEDIA

. (ABC News, Australia) Tobacco plain packaging laws come into effect

. (The Guardian, UK) Cigarette plain packaging laws come into force in Australia.

. (EuroNews, 2 minutes video) Australia removes cigarette branding from packets

Photograph: Lukas Coch/EPA

Last modified on December 10 2012.