0815 cigarette
A leaf blows onto the perspex cover over some of the 219,000 imitation cigarettes in central Sydney on April 21, 2010 placed there as part of a pharmaceutical company's attempt to draw attention to treatments that help break the hold of nicotine addiction. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Today, Australia's highest court ruled the government there can go ahead with plans to force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes with nothing but a plain package -- no branding at all, just those graphic warnings that say tobacco can kill you.

So how tough is Australia compared with the rest of the world? Christopher Werth reports from London.

Christopher Werth: At this shop in central London, storeowner Rena Patel stands in front a wall of cigarettes.

Rena Patel: Marlboro Reds, Marlboro...

By 2015, small shops like this in the U.K. will have to keep tobacco products out of sight of customers. And Patel isn’t happy about it.

Patel: No one’s going to know that you actually sell the cigarettes. If you haven’t got it on display they’ll just walk straight out.

It may be bad for sales, but it’s exactly what anti tobacco groups want.

Gerard Hastings is the director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research. He says many countries have moved to control how cigarettes are advertised. For example, Brazil has the same graphic warning signs that you’ll find in the U.S.

Hasting's also studied the potential of the kind of plain packaging laws Australia has just approved. And he thinks it’s a good thing.

Gerard Hastings: The design of the pack is not left to chance. It is carefully designed and very carefully designed in a number of different ways to make it as attractive as possible. It’s been used by tobacco companies more and more energetically as other elements of their marketing has been removed.

And now that Australia has the first plain packaging law, he expects lots of other countries to follow.

In London, I’m Christopher Werth for Marketplace.