US comedian John Oliver has given Australia’s plain packaging laws high praise and international media attention during a scathing attack on the tobacco industry.
In the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, the British funny man, who disguises hard-hitting journalism with satire, has lambasted the methods used by cigarette companies to promote and defend their deadly products.
Oliver pointed out that despite the health gains won by plain packaging, Australia has been subjected to “legal hell” by these mega corporations.
In 2012, the Labor government forced all cigarettes to be sold in drab, dark brown cartons emblazoned with revolting medical images intended to make smoking less appealing, which statistics show is working.
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, since that law was implemented total consumption of tobacco and cigarettes in Australia fell to record lows,” Oliver correctly points out.
A consortium of tobacco companies have sued the federal government, but are yet to defeat the laws.
“Score one for the little guy,” Oliver says.
But the saga is not over yet. Philip Morris Asia is currently bringing a case through a legal loophole — a trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong.
Oliver backhandedly applauds the ingenuity of the case, saying the company’s legal team deserves “a pat on the back… and a punch in the face”.
“A little pat, big punch,” he says.
The government can expect global attention from the TV episode. Issues pursued by Oliver often result in embarrassment for vested interests and publicity for grassroots movements.
American comedians like Oliver and The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart are widely thought to have seized the mantle of investigative journalism from that nation’s mainstream newspapers, where this style of reporting has become largely unprofitable.
In the same episode, Oliver also criticised the incursion of big tobacco into developing nations, such as our close neighbour Indonesia, where children are allowed to buy cigarettes.
With his signature British accent, he describes one recent smoking ad campaign as “a pile of horses**t”.
This is not the first time Oliver has praised Australian laws. In his former gig as a correspondent on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, Oliver ran an acclaimed three-part series on Gun Control, using Australia as a best-practice nation.
The hilarious segment included an interview with former Prime Minister John Howard on the gun control legislation he introduced in 1996.
He’s had fun at the expense of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with a 2014 segment on Last Week Tonight called ‘Tony Abbott, President of the USA of Australia’.
And he also mocked political candidate Stephanie Banister, who called Islam a “country”, before the 2013 federal election.
[jwplayer player=”1″ mediaid=”211301″]