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Plain packaging challenge fails

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The tobacco company Philip Morris has lost its latest bid to challenge Australia’s plain packaging cigarette laws.

The company tried to challenge the laws at a tribunal in Singapore, using an investment agreement that Australia signed with Hong Kong in 1993.

But the Arbitration Tribunal ruled that it had no jurisdiction to decide whether plain packaging is legal in Australia.

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Philip Morris said it was a regrettable outcome based on a technicality.

“There is nothing in today’s outcome that addresses, let alone validates, plain packaging in Australia or anywhere else,” said Marc Firestone, senior vice president of Philip Morris International.

“It is regrettable that the outcome hinged entirely on a procedural issue that Australia chose to advocate, instead of confronting head-on the merits of whether plain packaging is legal or even works.”

The tobacco company asserted that the sweeping ban on trademarks breached foreign investment protections that the Australian Government guaranteed in its trade deal with Hong Kong.

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has described the decision as a massive win.

“The tobacco industry’s desperate legal efforts have failed yet again,” said PHAA tobacco spokesperson Professor Mike Daube.

“They are the big losers, but the thousands who will not die from smoking are the winners.”

Philip Morris said it was reviewing the tribunal’s decision in detail.

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