Alcohol is next plain packaging target, warns Australian lawyer

27th July, 2015 by Kristiane Sherry

Australian regulators could introduce graphic warning labels on alcoholic beverages, similar to tobacco packaging, cautions lawyer Benjamin Rubinstein.

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Australia could introduce tobacco-style labelling on alcohol products, lawyer warns.

“I think there has been rumbling among the public health community about what’s next: is it just tobacco? What about sugary foods? Fatty foods? What about alcohol?” Rubinstein told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Rubinstein is a senior partner at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), the firm representing British American Tobacco in a case against the World Trade Organisation concerning tobacco plain packaging and warning labels.

“Often tobacco, whether it’s litigation or regulation, is the canary in the coal mine and I think public health authorities rightly want to encourage healthier lifestyles and there are a variety of ways they can do that, and, of course, there are limits – be they free speech limits or property rights – on what they can do.”

He added that litigation can “jump the border like a virus”, explaining that as soon as one country passes packaging regulation others are likely to follow. Australia was one of the first to introduce tobacco plain packaging laws; since then governments in Ireland, the UK and elsewhere have passed similar measures. If Australia was to introduce comparable legislation for spirits, it is highly likely other markets would follow.

The warning comes alongside continued calls for united cross-category lobbying from the duty free and travel retail community.

With the travel retail tobacco category crucial to liquor and confectionery sales, associations such as the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), the Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA), and others have called for all stakeholders, including spirits suppliers and retailers, to partner.

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