MOSCOW, February 19 - RAPSI. Philip Morris International announced Tuesday that the New Zealand government has decided to wait to implement its plan to require “plain” packaging for all tobacco products until Australian government has resolved its standing legal battles with Philip Morris and several other tobacco giants.

Plain packaging laws require all tobacco products to be stripped of flashy logos and consumer-driven design in favor of decidedly more plain and/or alarming images. 

It was widely reported Tuesday that New Zealand Health Minister Tariana Turia had announced the country’s plan to pursue plain packaging legislation.

Tuesday’s press release quoted Health Minister Tariana Turia as follows: “the Government will wait and see what happens with Australia’s legal cases, making it a possibility that if necessary, enactment of New Zealand legislation and/or regulations could be delayed pending those outcomes.”

In accordance with Australia’s plain-packaging law, all tobacco products will be required to be sold in matte brown packages. According to a factsheet issued by the Australian parliament, “[t]he only thing on the packs to distinguish one brand from another will be the brand and variant name in a standard colour, position, font size and style.” The otherwise indistinct drabness of the packages will be broken up by large, highly graphic images depicting the negative impact smoking can have.

Immediately following the Australian law’s passage, British American Tobacco (BAT) initiated proceedings against the government in the High Court of Australia. Global tobacco giants Philip Morris, JT International SA Van Nelle Tabak, and Imperial Tobacco Australia Ltd. issued writs during the course of proceedings challenging the law as well. According to a submission entered by the plaintiffs early on, of primary concern in the case was whether the act legalized activity that would constitute an acquisition, and if so, whether such acquisitions would be, “otherwise than on just terms.” The Australian constitution mandates that any governmental acquisition must be on just terms.

Domestically, the High Court of Australia upheld the law, stating that the inclusion of graphic images on cigarette packaging does not violate the country’s constitutional guarantee that property will not be acquisitioned by the parliament on unjust terms.

Philip Morris International described a wide range of international actions currently pending against Australia.

According to the statement, three countries have initiated claims against Australia with the World Trade Organization. Philip Morris Asia has filed a claim against Australia arising under its Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong.

Lauding the Government of New Zealand’s decision to refrain from implementing its own plain packaging law pending the Australia decisions, Philip Morris International said: “There is no credible evidence that standardized packaging will lower smoking rates, but strong evidence that it will jeopardize jobs, benefit the black market for cigarettes, and is a breach of international trade rules that have already made Australia’s policy subject to WTO action.”