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UK reveals plain pack thinking

The UK government has taken a step closer to introducing a plain packaging regime for cigarettes by launching a consultation on standardised tobacco packaging

The consultation document was published yesterday by the Department of Health. It suggests that standardised packaging could consist of no branding, a uniform colour, or standard font and text for any writing on the pack.

But the government confirmed that tobacco packs would not actually be plain. Instead, they would be required to have coloured picture warnings and brand names would still appear in a standardised form.

The move comes as tobacco companies fight the Australian government in the courts after the country’s parliament voted to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products from the end of 2012. They are arguing that the government has illegally appropriated their IP rights.

Australia is also facing a challenge at the WTO after Ukraine filed a complaint against it last month under the TRIPs Agreement.

The UK government said yesterday it has an “open mind” about introducing standardised packaging.

“Through the consultation, we want to understand whether there is evidence to demonstrate that the standardised packaging of tobacco products would have an additional public health benefit, over and above existing tobacco control initiatives. We also wish to understand what other effects there may be should standardised tobacco packaging be introduced.”

The consultation document does not specifically address issues relating to trade marks, but it does ask for comments about the likely impact of plain packaging on trade and competition.

The consultation is open until July 10.

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