Aussie Tobacco Ruling 1st Domino In Potential Global Cascade

Law360, New York (August 15, 2012, 8:59 PM ET) --

The High Court of Australia's decision to uphold the country's revolutionary plain packaging law will help spur the U.K. and other countries to implement similar measures for tobacco products, experts predict.  [excerpts]

The U.K. and New Zealand are both considering plain packaging requirements. New Zealand's government has already agreed in principle to institute plain packaging, pending a public comment period, while the U.K. Department of Health has said it is keeping an "open mind" about the practice. A public comment period about the effectiveness of the approach in the U.K. closed Friday.

Plain packaging has also garnered consideration from the European Union, Belgium, France and Canada.

At minimum, the Australian high court's ruling will encourage anti-tobacco advocates in those countries and others to strengthen their push for plain packaging, experts told Law360. But given the speed at which tobacco policies typically are adopted around the world once they have proved resilient in one country, the ruling could signal the beginning of a global cascade, they said.

Australia's place on the world stage could also increase the odds that plain packaging will catch on elsewhere, according to George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf.

"Once a challenge like this is defeated in at least one of the English-speaking countries ... it creates somewhat of a precedent and puts momentum behind the idea," Banzhaf said.

Banzhaf said the tobacco industry is increasingly turning to challenges under treaties in order to stymie regulation, but he doubted the tactic would succeed against the Australian law.

"I think they are mostly distractions and won't go anywhere," Banzhaf said.

"The impact, I think, will be tremendous," Banzhaf said. [FROM LAW360.COM]