Tobacco firm may have breached packaging laws


British American Tobacco Australia is being looked over probable breaches of the Federal Government’s new plain packaging regulations.

From October it started to be illegal to produce cigarettes for Australia in breach of the new regulations, but six brands are already being analyzed for potential violations.

The research began after the ABC informed the department about the possible breach.

The cigarettes have three-letter words at the top of each, which the department is examining to see if they are a kind of advertising, which would be prohibited according to the law.

In one example, Benson & Hedges cigarettes are labelled with “LDN”; in another instance Winfield cigarettes are printed with “AUS”.

According to the plain packaging laws, cigarettes are permitted to be labeled with an alphanumeric code but it must not symbolise or in any way be associated with the brand or version of the cigarette.

Professor Simon Chapman from Sydney University says that the potential breach is not a surprise for them.

Professor Chapman says tobacco companies will do anything to create a sense of “intrigue” about their products.

The Government has sent a notification to British American Tobacco Australia to find if the examined cigarettes were produced this month.

If they were, the firm confronts with fines worth more than $100 million and could as well be obligated to recall their products.

Professor Chapman says the Government needs to be tough with the cigarette makers.

“I just hope the Government will be really serious about this and apply the strictest possible fines that are available to them,” he said.British American Tobacco Australia has told the ABC that it has received no notification from the Health Minister nor the department.

A spokesman for British American Tobacco said that the firm would be ready to talk about the problem with the regulator as it did not think there had been a breach and the firm had done nothing illegal.

In September, before the new regulations became operational, the Government singled out Imperial Tobacco for its new packaging which complied with the new law but for one line written on the inside lid of the packet: “It’s what’s inside that counts.”

The Government described it as a “sick joke” and warned the cigarette makers it would be reviewing their products properly when the regulations came into force.

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