Philip Morris sues Australia over cigarette labels: Why?

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing the Australian government over its tough new law governing cigarette warning labels. Legislators from the "land down under" want their country to be the world's toughest on tobacco advertising, by stripping cigarette packs of colorful pictures and brand logos and replacing them with grisly images of death paired with anti-smoking warnings. Brand names would only be visible in small font. "This move ... would essentially amount to confiscation of our brand in Australia," said Philip Morris spokeswoman Anne Edwards. But the government isn't backing down. "We're not going to be intimidated by big tobacco's tactics," Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. Here's one of 13 warning labels currently used in Australia. Keep clicking through to see the others, and the new proposed label set for release in 2012 that's causing such an uproar.
World Health Organization
australian government tobacco label, philip morris, big tobbaco
World Health Organization

(CBS/AP) "We won't be deterred by tobacco companies making threats or taking legal action."

That's what Australia's health minister Nicola Roxon said in response to a lawsuit Philip Morris launched against the Australian government. The tobacco giant thinks Australia's plan to replace its cigarette brand logos with grisly pictures of cancer-stricken patients or sick children, amounts to bad business.

PICTURES: Australia's gruesome tobacco warning labels.

"This move ... would essentially amount to confiscation of our brand in Australia," Philip Morris spokeswoman, Anne Edwards, said.

But the Australian government believes the images of cancerous mouths, sickly children, and bulging eyes will make the packages less attractive to smokers.

The legislation, set to be introduced in July, would ban cigarette makers from printing their logos, promotional text, or colorful images on cigarette packs. Starting in January 2012, brand names would be printed in a small, uniform font and feature large health warnings and gruesome pictures.

Hong Kong-based Philip Morris Asia Limited, which owns its Australian affiliate, filed a notice of claim on Monday arguing the legislation violates an investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong that protects companies' property, including trademarks.

The plain packaging proposal severely diminishes the value of the company's trademark, Edwards said. "Our brands are really one of the absolute key valuable assets that we have as a company."

The government denied it was breaking any laws, and affirmed it would not back down.

Echoing her country's health minister, Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Australian Broadcasting Corp."We're not going to be intimidated by big tobacco's tactics."

Similar steps are being taken in the U.S., where cigarette packs will soon feature new warning labels with graphic images including diseased lungs and the sewn-up corpse of a smoker, and phrases like "Smoking can kill you" and "Cigarettes cause cancer."

The labels are a part of a campaign by the FDA to convey the dangers of tobacco, which kills about 443,000 Americans a year. The warnings must appear on cigarette packs by the fall of 2012.

The U.S and Australia are already behind the curve though, when it comes to tobacco labeling.

PICTURES: World's most gruesome tobacco warning labels

Uruguay's government requires that 80 percent of the front and back of all cigarettes packs be devoted to warnings. In Brazil, labels feature graphic images of dead fetuses, hemorrhaging brains and gangrened feet.

What do Australia's warning labels look like? Have a look...