BAT starts court fight over brand-free cigarette packets

BRITISH American Tobacco (BAT) yesterday launched a High Court challenge against an Australian law that will require plain packaging of cigarettes from December 2012, saying it infringes intellectual property rights.

This legal action comes just days after tobacco giant Phillip Morris sued the government over this plan, which will require all cigarettes to be sold in drab olive-brown, brand-free packets carrying graphic imagery of diseased body parts.

The Australian government says that tobacco use costs the country A$32bn (£20.8bn) every year. But BAT claims the proposal will cut profits and result in a black-market boom.

BAT spokesperson Scott McIntyre said: “Health minister Roxon has said herself there is no proof this will reduce smoking rates.

“Cheaper, more accessible tobacco will actually increase smoking rates.”

Australia would be the first to implement this law but Britain, Canada and New Zealand have also expressed interest and are watching developments.