MARK METHERELL August 01, 2012
In agreement ... Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, supports Australia's plain-pack cigarettes plan. Photo: AP
IN THE face of fierce opposition to plain-pack cigarettes from some American politicians, Australia's Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has found high-profile allies.
Among them is the New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who was ''terrifically enthusiastic'' about the cigarette plan when Ms Plibersek called on him.
Mr Bloomberg, a billionaire who has given $600 million to the world anti-tobacco campaign, spent an hour discussing the plain-pack plan, scheduled to take effect in Australia at the end of this year. That is pending the outcome of a High Court challenge to the decision, expected in the next few months.
The mayor has made a reputation for driving controversial public health measures in New York, including bans on smoking in bars and parks and curbs on the size of soft drink bottles, aimed at reducing people's sugar intake.
Ms Plibersek said that on her way to see Mr Bloomberg, she observed protesters backed by soft drink trucks gathered outside New York's City Hall, campaigning against the new beverage laws.
She also met the US Surgeon-General, Regina Benjamin, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, along with representatives of the Gates Foundation and the World Lung Foundation.
Moves to introduce graphic health warnings in the US have faced a legal challenge over a claimed infringement of freedom of speech.
Ms Plibersek said she found a lot of interest from the US officials in the way Australia had tackled anti-tobacco campaigns.
''They were very interested and very much on the same page about the things they need to do. They were really interested in what we have done and the measures we have taken,'' she said.
''There was very strong interest and support for what we have done in challenging big tobacco.''