Less than two days after Kevin Rudd came under heavy criticism for his ETS backflip, the government has pulled a sleight of hand: announcing it will introduce tough new laws for cigarette packets, banning the use of promotional text and images, logos, bright colours and fancy fonts.

With the federal budget just weeks away, an attack on the tobacco industry fans the flames of Australians’ greatest fear: Beer, cigs up.

Presto change-o: the nation’s press and populace is distracted by self-interest!

Ta-da: health is back on the national agenda!

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In The Australian, Sid Maher calls the new plan “the world’s most draconian anti-smoking laws”, the SMH has the obligatory online poll, while the Herald Sun is getting in early on the nanny state fear-mongering, claiming prices could hit $20 a pack:

Smokers will pay up to $6.50 more for a packet of cigarettes as part of sweeping tax reforms to be unveiled by the Rudd Government. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his senior ministers were confirming plans to announce the cigarette hit

Around the web:

The Enthusiast: Goodbye Marlboro Reds and Winnie Blues

Hilariously, the products might well keep their colourful names (eg “Dunhill Blue”), even if that colour itself appears nowhere on the pack.

Catallaxy: News Scoop: Tobacco persecution continues

Unfortunately smokers are such a despised minority that the government will be able to get away with some of it.

And it’s not just the Aussie press that loves a hands-off-our-smokes story: this one is already making headlines around the world:

The Daily Mail: Australia PM bans cigarette logos as he orders world’s first ‘plain packaging’ anti-smoking scheme

Bloomberg: Australia to Ban Cigarette Package Advertising in World First

BBC: Australia plans plain-packaging rule for cigarettes

And in another convenient puff of political distraction, as Tony Jones pointed out on Lateline last night, Rob Moodie, the President of the Preventative Health Taskforce, the organisation pushing the plain packaging scheme in the first place, is also the CEO of Melbourne Storm.

Look! Over there! (Not so) shiny things!

Peter Fray

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