This ruling is likely to trigger similar restrictions in many other countries - including especially Great Britain and New Zealand - predicts public interest law professor John Banzhaf, the man behind the ban on cigarette commercials in the U.S., and who helped develop the legal challenge which led to a ban on cigarette billboards, and to the death of "Joe Camel" and other cartoon characters.
The fact that the Court issued its ruling without waiting to be able to publish a written decision explaining and supporting it strongly suggests that it is well aware of the impact its ruling likely will have very quickly in ongoing consideration of similar restrictions in other countries.
Although the companies are arguing that it's an isolated decision not likely to have any impact elsewhere, Banzhaf notes that they originally made the same claim about requiring graphic health warnings instead of simple text on cigarette packs - a movement which has now spread to some fifty countries.
Interestingly, this latest legal challenge appears to be part of a coordinated effort by the global tobacco industry to use legal action to defend and protect their interests - the mirror image of what I was able to do in the U.S. of using legal action against tobacco to get: antismoking messages on radio and television, forcing the first ever drop in cigarette consumption, banning cigarette billboards, killing off "Joe Camel" and the use of other cartoon characters to promote cigarettes, a quarter-of-a-
Although this new tobacco industry tactic has sometimes been successful for them, it occasionally backfires - as it did here in Australia. Meanwhile, tobacco control activists are working to convince both judges and lawmakers that there should be an exception to the ordinary rules protecting free trade, trademarks and copyright, etc. when the product presents the unique health and addictive dangers of cigarettes.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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