ATTORNEY-General Nicola Roxon has urged tobacco companies to "accept the decision of the umpire" after the High Court rejected a challenge to the Federal Government's world-first plain packaging legislation.
From December 1, cigarettes will be sold in drab, olive green packaging with graphic health warnings after the High Court ruled the legislation did not infringe on the property rights of tobacco companies.
It means tobacco companies will be required to begin producing plain packaging from October 1, which Ms Roxon said would give businesses an adequate phase-in period before the laws kick in.
Ms Roxon said it was a proud day for the government, adding the court's decision to award costs to the Commonwealth was "icing on the cake".
"Tobacco companies no longer have any excuses not to get on with implementing this measure," Ms Roxon said.
British American Tobacco Australasia, one of the companies behind the High Court action, issued a statement indicating it was "extremely disappointed" by the decision.
It said while it respected the full bench's decision, it maintained it was a "bad piece of law".
"We still believe the government had no right to remove a legal company's intellectual property, but BATA will comply with this and every other law," the statement read.
While there are no further avenues for appeal in the Australian legal system, the plain packaging law is the subject of a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization from tobacco-producing countries Ukraine, Dominican Republic and Honduras.
Tobacco company Phillip Morris is also challenging the plan on the grounds it allegedly breaches Australia's bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong
Ms Roxon said she was confident the legislation would survive those and any international challenges.
She urged countries considering tobacco plain packaging or other measures to stand their ground.
"Not only have I believed we're on strong ground from the beginning, but I think the decision of the High Court today strengthens that ground," she said.
"The importance of the decision today is that governments can take on big tobacco and win."
New Zealand, which is considering plain packaging laws of its own, was one of the many countries watching the High Court action with interest.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the High Court ruling was "not only a win for the Australian government".
She said New Zealand's laws were different to those in Australia but the Australian court had sent a strong message that governments did have the right to develop legislation in their own territories.
Ms Turia started a consultation process over plain packaging of tobacco earlier this year, and tobacco companies have also warned such a step could result in legal action.
Australia's Health Minister Tanya Plibersek praised Ms Roxon, her predecessor in the portfolio, describing her pursuit of the plain packaging laws was "brave and visionary".
Ms Plibersek said the decision was a victory for families who had lost loved-ones to tobacco-related illness.
She said plain packaging removed the ability of tobacco companies to market to children.
"The reason that tobacco companies need to advertise in ways that appeal to young people is because old people keep dying," Ms Plibersek said.
"They need new customers because they keep losing their old ones.
"We have removed the tobacco companies' mobile billboards, the billboards that were in every pocket of every smoker around Australia.
"We've taken away their ability to appeal to children in the way you have seen in this film."
Ms Roxon said the introduction of the law on December 1 would be accompanied by a "strong implementation regime", including inspectors visiting businesses seeling cigarettes, a website and hotline.
The High Court is yet to reveal the reasons for its decisions.
To highlight this point ministers Roxon and Plibersek opened their press conference by screening an ad from Britain, which is also looking at implementing plain packaging laws.
The ad (above), produced by Cancer Research UK, depicts children describing how various cigarette packets make them feel.
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