Australian retailers are facing a double whammy of tobacco legislation after the government launched proposals to make plain packaging of all tobacco products mandatory by July 2012.

Legislation to ban tobacco displays in stores has already been passed in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania, with implementation due in phases between 2010 and 2013.

However, earlier this week federal health minister Nicola Roxon released a public exposure draft of legislation which would see cigarette packs cloaked in a dark shade of olive green – found to be the most unattractive colour for young people.

Health warnings would also be given greater prominence, covering 90% of the back of packs, and 75% of the front, while brand would be reduced to a uniform size and font to make them as bland and anonymous as possible.

The changes would send a clear message to youths and smokers that smoking was no longer glamorous, Roxon said.

“Cigarette packs will now only show the death and disease that can come from smoking,” she added.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said under current and scheduled state tobacco display laws, the proposed plain packaging was “unnecessary” and “only duplicated the regulatory burden and associated costs for retailers.”

“Retailers have invested in new store fit outs to ensure they are compliant with state tobacco display bans but they are now left wondering what exactly they are hiding behind cupboard doors if federal legislation will dictate standard packaging,” he said.

Tobacco companies have vowed to fight the plans which they claim would infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws.