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Australia cigarette package plan hit

Associated Press / June 28, 2011

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SYDNEY — Tobacco giant Philip Morris launched legal action yesterday against the Australian government over the country’s plans to strip company logos from cigarette packages and replace them with grisly images of cancerous mouths, sickly children, and bulging, blinded eyes.

The government believes the new rules will make the packages less attractive to smokers. Several outraged cigarette makers have threatened lawsuits, arguing the move illegally diminishes the value of their trademarks. Philip Morris is the first of those companies to file a claim for compensation.

The legislation, which will be introduced to Parliament in July, would ban cigarette makers from printing their logos, promotional text, or colorful images on cigarette packs. Brand names will instead be printed in a small, uniform font and feature large health warnings and gruesome, full-color images of the consequences of smoking. The law would be phased in over six months, starting in January 2012.

Philip Morris Asia Limited said the legislation violates a bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong.