Plain Packaging of Tobacco: The legal challenges and their potential implications for other industries

This talk discussed the two current international legal challenges to Australia's plain packaging laws for tobacco. Several countries have brought complaints to the World Trade Organization claiming that the laws contravene TRIPS and other WTO agreements. In addition, Philip Morris Asia Ltd has instituted arbitration proceedings pursuant a bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong. Views about the appropriateness of the laws are polarised with public health advocates firmly in favour of them and some intellectual property advocates expressing concern at both these laws and the potential for similar laws to be applied to other industries such as the alcohol and fast food industries. The talk explained that the impact of the two legal challenges will not just be on whether the laws in their current form are allowed under international law. The major issue for the tobacco and other industries will be the grounds upon the which government wins or loses.