WTO to rule on Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws

The World Trade Organisation has reported rejected a case against Australia’s plain packaging laws.

The ABC has reported on a rumour that the Australian Government has won a dispute regarding international tobacco plain packaging.

The rumoured ruling in Australia’s favour is set to give the green light to other countries to roll out similar laws.

A British American Tobacco (BAT) spokesperson said the news regarding the ruling was “speculation”.

“However, we can say that there is still no proof to show that plain packaging is meeting the objectives set out by the government,” he said.

Speaking on Bloomberg Daybreak: Australia, journalist Paul Allen said companies were horrified by confronting pictures being put on cigarette packaging because of what it meant for their trademark.

“The dispute went to the WTO, the decision won’t be released until July but the people familiar with the matter say the panel has upheld Australia’s right to impose these restrictions on packing…It’s likely we may see an appeal on this,” he said.

“More importantly it could set a precedent, we may now see some other countries following suit.”

Despite revelations that the WTO will not release their decision until July, the Australian Labor party has made a statement that the WTO “has upheld Labors world-first plain packaging laws”.

Cancer Council Victoria said it welcomed recent findings by an independent study released in April which they said found that plain packaged tobacco products “may” reduce the prevalence of smoking.

“The review noted that its conclusions are supported by routinely collected unpublished survey data from Australia,” it said.

“These include two national population surveys that show decreased adult smoking prevalence after plain packaging (Drug Strategy Household Survey and ABS Health Survey) and the Australian Secondary Schools Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey that showed reduced smoking prevalence among students aged 12 to 17 years after plain packaging,” it said.

“The review also found that tobacco plain packaging reduces appeal and that this may provide a mechanism through which plain packaging reduces smoking prevalence.”

BAT spokesperson said: “What is apparent is the growth of the tobacco black-market since plain packaging was introduced – from 11.5% in 2012 to 13.9% of the total in 2016.

“This is equivalent to 2.2 billion cigarettes,” he said, as reported by KPMG’s Illicit Tobacco in Australia 2016 Full Year Report.

In 2014, Indonesia won the right seek a ruling from the WTO regarding the plain packaging laws, and the WTO’s settlement body agreed to set up an independent panel to assess the rules of global commerce.

Cited as a legitimate public health measure by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the panel has reportedly rejected a case made by Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Indonesia, in which they argued that Australia’s laws breach international trade rules as well as the intellectual property rights of brands.

Australia saw a variety of changes to tobacco legislation, passed in 2011, and in action since 2012.

The laws stated that all tobacco products must be sold in green, plain packaging that used the same typeface and confronting images of diseased and sick people to try and deter people from purchasing and smoking tobacco.




2 thoughts on “WTO to rule on Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws”

  1. Interesting!
    So the results that “showed reduced smoking prevalence among students aged 12 to 17 years after plain packaging” is all down to the plain packaging working and NOTHING to do with stronger penalties and more crack downs to the under age smoking laws.
    Data Can be a useful thing, but can also be looked at in different ways to manipulate how an outcome is viewed to push a specific response or result.

  2. Uland Sievert

    Uland Sievert. The biggest factor by far of falling smoking rates is now the price. Plain packaging ranks well down the list of reasons. I’m sure those responsible for the plain packaging “sleep better” at night, knowing they have “done their bit” to reduce smoking rates. The lack of sales in the cigarette case and sleeve market automatically tells you that plain packaging long lost its shock value.

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