The Australian federal government has secured a big win over big tobacco with the High Court ruling Labour's world-first plain packaging laws are constitutionally valid.
The decision is expected to have significant influence globally with both the United Kingdom and New Zealand considering plain packaging.
Cigarette packs and tobacco products will be sold in drab olive-brown packaging from the end of the year.
Large graphic health warnings will dominate the packs and the manufacturers' brand names will be written in a small generic font.
Health experts have hailed the decision as a "massive win" for global health.
Although the court handed down its decision today the reasons for the judgment won't be revealed until later in the year.
Chief Justice Robert French said the majority of justices found the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill was not in contravention of Section 51 of the Australian constitution. The tobacco companies have been ordered to pay the commonwealth's legal costs.
The tobacco companies had argued before the High Court that the government through the plain packaging measure would be depriving them of copyright.
During the hearings in April the companies - British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco, Van Nelle Tabak Nederland and JT International SA - argued the measure breached the constitutional requirement that the acquisition of property by the government be on just terms.
But to make that case, the companies had to show that the government gained a measurable benefit as a consequence, that is apart from the claimed benefits to population health.
The Commonwealth responded the companies' case could not succeed unless it could be shown that the government had taken property from them.
The decision was ''a massive win for public health. It is also the global tobacco industry's worst defeat'', the president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Mike Daube, said.
''The global tobacco companies have opposed plain packaging more ferociously than any other measure we have seen,'' said Professor Daube, who chaired the federal government's expert committee that recommended plain packaging.
The companies knew that plain packaging would have a major impact on smoking in Australia - and that other countries would follow.
Professor Daube said the companies' own internal documents showed that packaging was a crucial part of their marketing.
''Since we learned about the dangers of smoking, cigarettes have killed one million Australians, in large part because of the activities of the world's most lethal industry.''
The chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore said tobacco companies had used every possible trick and mechanism to oppose plain packaging.
The measure ''will help prevent children from starting to smoke and encourage adults to quit," Mr Moore said.
"We can take immense heart from knowing that even the massive resources of a global industry cannot buy government policy or High Court decisions.''
- Sydney Morning Herald
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