Today the ACCC has British American Tobacco up before the court over new Dunhill packaging, following a complaint from Quit Victoria.

Once out of its cellophane, the pack (below) folds apart into two compartments. Separated by a convenient perforated edge, then ready to tear into two iPod mini size packs, one with 13 lung busters and another with seven. The ACCC is seeking to injunct BAT for contravening a section of the Trade Practices Act which requires all packs to carry the prescribed pictorial warnings of inconvenient truths like gangrenous feet.

Once the twin pack is torn in half, the larger section is without the required warning. Significantly, the regulator is seeking a declaration from BAT that they have contravened the Act, which could open the door to criminal prosecution and a maximum fine of 10,000 penalty points, currently set at $110 each.

Public health groups have branded the packs “kiddie” packs, designed to appeal to price sensitive kids who can split the cost and then split the pack as they step out of the shop. Strategically labelled “limited edition”, the venture looks like a water-testing exercise to see if the ACCC and the courts would bite.

While BAT’s website drips with PR saccharine about the company’s youth smoking prevention programs, in 2002/3, the value of tobacco sales to the Australian youth market was $124.7 million, with $18.7m going to manufacturers like BAT.

An internal BAT training DVD leaked to me a few years back showed senior executives jawing about how the international parent company saw its Australian operation as a global training ground for developing “a different skill set” in how to operate in the “darkest markets” on earth, where all tobacco advertising is banned. The court’s action today will domino all around the world as tobacco companies seek to ensure a healthy supply of kids as their economic future.

For more information, head to the Tobacco Control Supersite

Peter Fray

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