Despite fierce opposition from tobacco companies Australia became the first country in the world to introduce plain tobacco packaging with large graphic health warnings.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on October 8, 2019

Australian woman Nicola Roxon has been honoured for her groundbreaking law which has seen 29 countries and territories adopt or pledge to adopt similar legislation.

Nicola Roxon was the Australian Government’s Minister for Health and Ageing who introduced the world’s first successful implementation of plain cigarette packing.

Despite fierce opposition from tobacco companies Australia became the first country in the world to introduce plain tobacco packaging with large graphic health warnings. All cigarette packets sold from 1 December 2012 being sold in logo-free, dark brown packets. Roxon’s legislation withstood legal fights from the tobacco giants and has been lauded by many, including the World Health Organisation.

To honour her work, Roxon received a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) in recognition of her contributions to government, health and public health law from the University of Sydney.

The Honorary Doctorate also acknowledged Roxon’s historic appointment as Australia’s first female Attorney General in 2011, when she ordered a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“Ms Roxon is a pioneer in health prevention and law. It is appropriate that her outstanding contributions are recognised in this manner,” said the Chancellor of the University of Sydney Belinda Hutchinson AM.

“I congratulate Ms Roxon on this honour, which recognises her remarkable achievements and commitment to the public good,” added Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence.

Dr Spence said the honour was also a fitting continuation of the University’s role in tobacco control.

The University of Sydney has a long history of engagement in tobacco control and was the world’s first university to implement a policy preventing staff and students from accepting grants from tobacco companies. This has been emulated by nearly all Australian universities and many others around the world.

“At the University of Sydney, we share Ms Roxon’s genuine desire to build a better, healthier future for the world and we are so proud when our world-class research is used by policymakers to bring about real change,” Dr Spence said.

The law of Roxon, who is chairman of industry super fund HESTA, has seen a dramatic fall in smoking in Australia. In 1991 24.3% of Australia’s population smoked. In 2016, only 12.2% of Australians smoked.

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Tobacco smoking is the single most important preventable cause of ill health and death in the world. Two of every three deaths in long-term smokers in Australia can be directly attributed to smoking. Smoking represents an estimated 20% of Australia’s cancer cases each year.