British American Tobacco has been required to change its cigarettes after the ABC discovered a first breach of the Federal Government’s plain packaging laws.
The tobacco company has accepted to take away three letter abbreviations printed on 6 brands of its cigarettes.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has told that the tobacco products were “not strictly compliant” with the Federal Government’s law.
From October it turned out to be unlawful to manufacture cigarettes for sale in Australia that did not go along with the plain packaging regulations.
The rules say each cigarette can have an alpha-numeric code for recall and production purposes, but that cannot be a type of advertising or cannot at all be associated with the brand of the cigarette.
Ms Plibersek says that 6 packs of cigarettes acquired by the ABC early in October seem to break the regulations.
“Packets have letters like NYC, LDN for London, SYD for Sydney, AUS for Australia, and it is supposed that those form of letter tags indicate some meaning to smokers,” she said.
“It’s definitely not random as it should be. It’s the tobacco groups trying to push the limitations. They have been asked to alter their production.”
Ms Plibersek says that thin lines on the cigarette sticks also break the law which says the cigarette casings must be made from plain paper.
“It’s a kind of watermark in the paper of some of the cigarettes. We consider that it is a break. It is considered that plain papers suggest plain paper, it doesn’t mean watermarked paper, so the cigarette makers need to alter that,” she said.
A spokesperson for British American Tobacco states that the company called the Health Department as soon as it was first informed and has since had continuing discussions.
The Government informed cigarette makers in September not to try any dirty methods once the plain packaging regulations became operational
Any fake products could earn see companies slapped with fines of more than $100 million and their products recalled.
But Ms Plibersek says cigarette makers will get off for this first break.
“They were examining the boundaries and we’ve gone after them, they’ve accepted to alter what they are doing,” she said.
“I think that’s a good result for the health of the people who live in this country.”
Ms Plibersek says that the Government will permit the non-compliant cigarettes to be on the market for sale until they are sold out.
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