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The Australian’s dissembling campaign on tobacco plain packaging

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As plain packaging bites into smoking, The Australian newspaper relentlessly attacks the legislation

This year marks two 50th anniversaries — the first United States Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health1 and the establishment of The Australian newspaper.

Fifty years on, there is literally universal acceptance of the massive harms caused by smoking — 178 governments have signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — but smoking still causes 6 million deaths each year. Given the preventability of the problem, action has been distressingly slow, largely because of the power and ruthless opposition of the global tobacco industry.

Expert reports have noted over the years that there is no magic bullet: a comprehensive approach including legislation and education is needed. In December 2012, legislation came into force in Australia mandating plain packaging of tobacco products, despite ferocious opposition from tobacco interests. This was recommended by the National Preventative Health Taskforce as part of a comprehensive approach, and Health Minister Nicola Roxon was explicit about the main aim: “we’re targeting people who have not yet started, and that’s the key to this plain packaging announcement  —  to make sure we make it less attractive for people to experiment with tobacco…