Australia - alliance of retail groups funded by big tobacco suffers major loss in fight against plain cigarette packs..

August 11, 2010 - Back on August 4, 2010 we reported that big tobacco companies are fighting back against the Government's plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging by funding small retailers in a massive advertising campaign timed to coincide with the final weeks of the election campaign - the election is on August 21, 2010. (Australia - big tobacco fighting back against plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging.. - also see background information at this news brief..)

An alliance of retail groups, which had been funded by the multi-national tobacco giants, yesterday collapsed with one of the key groups, the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), being forced by Coles, through its subsidiary Coles Express, to withdraw. COLES has pulled out of a $5 million pro-smoking election ad campaign with links to former Liberal party strategists and funded by the tobacco industry.

The anti-Labor advertisements against the Federal Government's proposed plain packaging for tobacco products are scheduled to begin running today in newspapers after initially being pulled.

Sources in the retail industry confirmed that Coles, which chairs the board of the AACS, forced the board to withdraw the retail group and its members, including Caltex, Shell and BP, from the campaign, after being misled on the nature of the ads.

It also can be revealed that an alliance of health and medical bodies is launching legal action against the tobacco industry to force the ads to be withdrawn.

Neither the Alliance nor the tobacco companies returned calls.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has denied involvement from Liberal Party members after it was revealed that Liberal strategist Crosby Textor was on a retainer with British American Tobacco. The two men employed by the tobacco industry, believed to be the campaign masterminds, were also former Howard Government advisers and one was a former employee of Crosby Textor.

Public Health Association of Australia president Mike Daube yesterday said they had obtained legal advice to try to stop the campaign going ahead. "I would say it reflects well on Wesfarmers and Coles, having a major company acting very responsibly," he said. "We have legal advice that health groups have sought, with preliminary advice from Julian Burnside SC, there is an arguable case that the advertisements are misleading and deceptive."

One alliance member said he was appalled at the way the campaign had been run, and that the tobacco industry was hiding behind the retailers: "We have become the middle man in this, it has been run so badly."

Reference: Cigarette ads lose big backers, Simon Benson, The Daily Telegraph, 8/11/2010

A few related news briefs - plain packaging:
Australia - big tobacco fighting back against plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging..;
Australia - new Prime Minister Julia Gillard..;
New Zealand - plain cigarette and tobacco packs could turn teenagers off smoking..;
Australia - tobacco tax increase now in force, next comes plain tobacco packaging..;
Australia - plain packages on all tobacco products within 2-years..;
Australian study - Plainer cigarette packages, perceived as boring or unattractive, would make smoking much less appealing to teens..;
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United Kingdom - cigarette makers oppose plain packaging..;
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UK - House of Lords -debate on tobacco plain packaging..;
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