Australia plans to use the world’s first-ever plain packagaing law on tobacco advertising to try and decrease the smoking rate to 10 percent by 2018.

Details about the country’s initiative, scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2012, were announced by Minister of Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon during the world Medical Association Council meeting in Sydney last week.

Dr. Cecil B. Wilson, president of the American Medical Association, reported on the gathering on his blog, “On the Road with Dr. Wilson,” at www.ama-assn.org.

Cigarette packages sold in Australia will be required to be a dark olive/brown color – a color determined to be the least attractive to people. Wilson said that 90% of the front of the pack and 70% of the back will be devoted to warnings about hazards of smoking. In addition, the size of the brand name will be prescribed. The changes will require parliamentary approval, and are expected to be met with strong opposition from the tobacco industry.

“Tobacco smoking continues to be the major cause of preventable illness and death worldwide,” writes Wilson, who said that tobacco is the largest cause of preventable disease-related deaths in Australia, despite a decrease in smoking from 30% in 1998 to 16% in 2010, attributed to higher taxes and internet advertising restrictions on tobacco products

“I wish Australia well in this endeavor, which, if successful, will save countless lives and prevent serious illnesses associated with tobacco products,” Wilson said.