Australian smokers see ugly truth
Australia has became the first country in the world to put all tobacco products in standardised packs.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products are being sold in packets which prominently portray dying cancer sufferers, diseased feet and ill babies.
The law bans the use of logos, brand imagery, symbols, other images, colours and promotional text.
They all show the same murky colour and a large health warning with the name of the brand printed but in a standard colour, position, font size and style.
The packaging laws are a potential watershed for the global industry, which serves one billion regular smokers, according to World Health Organization statistics.
While Australia has one of the world's lowest smoking rates and the changes will have little impact on multinationals' profits, other countries are considering similar steps.
The government says the aim is to deter young people from smoking by stripping the habit of glamour. It is relying on studies showing that if people have not started smoking by age 26, there is a 99 percent chance they will never take it up.
The potential hitch, experts say, is the popularity of social media with the very demographic the plan is targeting.
After a series of Australian laws banning TV advertising and sports sponsorship and requiring most sellers to hide cigarettes from view, online is the final frontier for tobacco marketing.
Australia has banned online advertising by local companies and sites, but the door cannot be slammed at the border.
"If you are a tobacco marketer and you've only got this small window left to promote your products, online is the compelling place for you to be in," said Becky Freeman, a public health researcher at Sydney University.
Freeman noted an increase in "average Joe" reviews of brands on social media sites such as Youtube, Twitter and Facebook.
"We have to ask, is that just a private citizen who really loves Marlboro cigarettes and they've gone to the trouble of making a video, or is there a marketing company involved?"
Scott McIntyre of British American Tobacco Australia, maker of Winfield cigarettes, made popular by ads featuring "Crocodile Dundee" actor Paul Hogan in the 1970s, said the industry was focused on dealing with the new rules rather than marketing.
The industry lobbied hard against the laws. Tobacco firms said they would boost black market trade, leading to cheaper, more accessible cigarettes.
"There will be serious unintended consequences from the legislation," said Ms McIntyre. "Counterfeiters from China and Indonesia will bring lots more of these products down to sell on the streets of Australia."
Others say the laws have boosted their business. Sandra Ha of Zico Import Pty Ltd, a small family business, said demand for cigarette cases, silicon covers to mask the unpalatable packages, had shot up from almost nothing two months ago since British American Tobacco, Britain's Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco lost a challenge to the laws in Australia's High Court.