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The cancer emperor’s new clothes: Australia’s historic legislation for plain tobacco packaging

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 05 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2436
  1. Simon Chapman, professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Australia,
  2. Becky Freeman, research officer, School of Public Health, University of Sydney
  1. simon.chapman{at}

    The Australian government has announced one of the most important chronic disease prevention policies ever adopted. From 2012 all tobacco products will be sold in standardised plain packs (see News, BMJ 2010;340:c2401, doi:10.1136/bmj.c2401). The opposition Liberal party is not opposing the move. Plain packs will be uniform in colour, shape, and texture of paper. Pictorial health warnings will remain and may increase in size, and brands will be differentiated only by their names in a small, standard font (figure). The legislation comes after other recent Australian state legislation banning the retail display of tobacco products.

    Cigarettes themselves may also be incorporated into the regulations, so that coloured or perfumed papers and filters and different shapes such as slimline and mini-cigarettes would be outlawed. With a worldwide domino effect common in tobacco control, this vanguard decision may bring down the curtain on a century of the tobacco industry packaging carcinogenic, addictive products in attractive, beguiling boxes. The cancer emperor will soon have no clothes.

    Although drugs have long been sold in packs devoid …

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