Cigarette butts lie in a public roadside cigarette bin in central Sydney on August 15, 2012.
Credit: Greg Wood

In a blow for big tobacco, Australia's High Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of world-first plain packaging laws.

From December, all cigarettes sold Down Under must must be contained in drab, uniform packaging stripped of company logos and other branding and instead carrying graphic health warnings, the Australian Associated Press reported.

Tobacco companies including British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International had argued in their appeal to the High Court that the law breached the country's intellectual property rights.

Australia's Constitution says that the government can only acquire the property of others on "just terms."

Big tobacco also said the value of their trademarks would be destroyed under the new rules.

And they claimed the government would unfairly benefit from using cigarette packs as a platform to promote its own message, the Associated Press wrote.

Phillip Morris Asia is further challenging Canberra's laws through the UN Commission on International Trade Law.

However, in the meantime Australia's highest legal body backed the government's move to make smoking as unglamorous as possible.

Along with the plain packaging, packs will feature graphic health warnings and images including cancer-riddled mouths and blinded eyeballs. 

And the big tobacco challengers will have to pay the government's legal costs, which Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said had run into millions of dollars.

According to a separate AAP report, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek dedicated the court victory to big tobacco's victims.

"For anyone who has lost someone to smoking — this one's for you," she told reporters in the Australian capital, Canberra.

Health advocates said the watershed court decision would have an impact worldwide.

The AAP wrote that New Zealand was planning to introduce plain packaging, while the United Kingdom, France, South Africa, China, Norway and Uruguay were also considering the measure.

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