Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon says, she will not be frightened off by the tobacco industry's attempt to lobby Malaysia to oppose the Australian government's proposal for plain packaging of cigarettes.
According to ABC News, big tobacco companies have appointed a former United States ambassador to the World Trade Organization ( WTO), Peter Allgeier, to help them fight the Australian federal government's plain packaging plan, which is due to come into effect this year.
An email sent to a Malaysian official and obtained by ABC News showed that Allgeier had a meeting with Malaysia's trade minister before, and he has been lobbying a Malaysian administrator to put pressure on Australia over plain packaging.
Allgeier's email also stated that "members of the U.S. congress also have written to the Australian Government outlining concerns about the implications of plain packaging for the integrity of Australia's trade commitments."
However, Roxon, who said she has not been approached by Malaysia on the issue, said Allgeier's appointment demonstrated just how far big tobacco is prepared to take its fight.
"But we won't be frightened off because big tobacco is hiring lobbyists or looking at ways to influence the action we're taking, " she told ABC television on Thursday night.
The tobacco industry has already spent millions fighting plain packaging, and last year gave 5.2 million U.S. dollars to the Alliance of Australian Retailers (AAR) to fund an advertising campaign against the plan.
If the cigarettes law is enforced, Australia will become the first country in the world to ban logos and brand names from cigarette packaging. Health warnings and the kind of graphic pictures will make up the majority of the packaging, while the rest of the packets will be plain olive green.
Distributed by Comtex News Network, Xinhua News Agency