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An open pack of Marlboro Lights lays by a lit cigarette in an ash tray. Altria is feeling pressure to expand Phillip Morris' business as cigarette smoking decreases annually in the U.S. - 

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Stacey Vanek-Smith: What's black and white and covered with health warnings? Cigarettes -- that is, if the Australian government has its way. It's introduced legislation that would ban colorful images and logos from cigarette packs. For Marketplace, the BBC's Sarah Gerathy reports from Sydney.


Sarah Gerathy: Pick up a pack of cigarettes in Australia and you'll be faced with graphic photos of mouth cancer and rotting teeth. What could be more grotesque than that? Well, if you're a tobacco company, maybe a simple, boring white pack.

The plan is to make smoking even less attractive, especially to young people. Professor Simon Chapman is advising the government on how to do it:

Simon Chapman: It removes completely the ability of the tobacco industry to effectively say anything about its brands other than the name of the brand.

The U.S. limits advertising with packs carrying a small warning that smoking may kill you. But Australia's will be the boldest cigarette advertising crackdown by any country. And the companies are already threatening legal action.

Tim Wilson's from the Australian think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs:

Tim Wilson: The tobacco companies may be able to sue the government for the compensation for the lose of their trademarks and may seek compensation of up to $3 billion per annum.

If the Australian government succeeds in court, other countries could follow suit.

In Sydney, I'm the BBC's Sarah Gerathy for Marketplace.