SA alert on smoking brands case

Johannesburg - South Africa had not yet indicated whether it would ban brands being displayed on tobacco packets like Australia, the National Council Against Smoking said on Wednesday.

"But they are looking at what is happening in Australia very closely," said NCAS member Dr Yusuf Saloojee.

"My view is that South Africa should do the same thing as Australia, but of course I can't speak for the government."

Earlier, Agence France-Presse reported that global tobacco firms lost a "watershed" court challenge to Australia's plain packaging laws for cigarettes.

The High Court of Australia ruled the measures, stipulating that tobacco products should be sold in drab, uniform packaging with graphic health warnings from December 1 this year, did not breach the country's constitution.

Four companies, led by British American Tobacco [JSE:BTI], had challenged the law, claiming it infringed its intellectual property rights by banning brands and trademarks from packets, and was unconstitutional.

But the court rejected the argument by BAT, Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris that the law represented "an acquisition of (their) property otherwise than on just terms".

Australian Attorney General Nicola Roxon said Britain, Canada and New Zealand were mulling over similar measures, and that China, SA and the European Union were following the Australian case with interest.

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