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WTO challenges pose no threat to Australia’s plain packaging law

| April 7, 2014

Indonesia won’t win its case against Australia’s standardized tobacco packaging laws at the World Trade Organization, according to a story in the Herald Sun quoting Tanya Plibersek, who is the deputy leader of the opposition Labor party and who served in the government that introduced standardized packaging.

Indonesia recently became the fifth country after Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Ukraine to take Australia to the WTO over its standardized packaging law.

Since Dec. 1, 2012, Australia has required that all tobacco products be sold in packaging designed on behalf of the previous Labor government to be as ugly as possible. Packs are hugely dominated by graphic health warnings, are otherwise a standard olive color, have no logos or other design features, and have brand and variant names in a standardized font and position.

Plibersek said she was confident the legislation would not be defeated at the WTO because Australia was not treating countries differently under trade rules. “[Indonesia's] issue might be one of intellectual property, and we’ve had plenty of legal advice to say we’re on strong grounds here,” she was reported to have told Sky News on Sunday.

Plibersek said the tobacco policy was “one of the best things we did in government.” And she added that she thought Indonesia’s objection was a clear indication it was worried that standardized packaging was having an effect.

“I would be delighted if it means that Indonesian tobacco products are selling less … because it means Indonesians are getting sicker and dying less,” she told Sky News.

U.K. ‘minded’ to introduce plain packaging

| April 4, 2014

Campaigners opposed to standardized packaging are urging the U.K. government to keep an “open mind” on the issue following a less-than-encouraging announcement by public health minister Jane Ellison.

According to the smokers’ group FOREST, Ellison said the government was currently minded to proceed with standardized packaging but would conduct a final short consultation.

“It makes sense for the government to take its time and consult further, but it seems perverse to commit to a policy before those discussions have taken place,” said Simon Clark, the director of FOREST, which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign.

“If further consultation is to have any meaning the government must keep an open mind.

“The final decision on standardized packaging must be based on hard evidence that it stops children smoking. Conjecture and subjective opinion are not enough.”

Clark urged the government not to forget the outcome of the public consultation on plain packaging. “A four-month consultation resulted in over 665,000 responses, two-thirds of them opposed to plain packaging,” he said.

“We urge government not to ignore those responses, which were submitted in good faith.

“Failure to take into account the result of a public consultation would leave a very bad taste and could alienate a large number of voters, many of whom could be driven to vote for Ukip in protest.”

Plain packs report finding ‘defies logic’

| April 4, 2014

British American Tobacco said yesterday it was disappointed to hear that Sir Cyril Chantler had concluded that standardized tobacco packaging could be an effective measure for public health in the U.K., despite recognizing “there are limitations to the evidence currently available.”

“Therefore, based on the evidence included in [Chantler]’s report, the conclusion that plain packaging is an effective measure for public health defies logic,” BAT said in a note posted on its website.

In November, Chantler, a pediatrician, chairman of University College London Partners and nonexecutive chairman of the Quality and Clinical Risk Committee of NHS (National Health Service) England, was asked by the government to undertake an independent review of the public health evidence for standardized tobacco packaging.

BAT urged the U.K. government to look at the data from Australia, where, it said, after one year it was clear the plain packaging experiment had failed.

“The data shows that plain packaging has not had a positive effect on public health in Australia,” BAT said. “What’s more, the government must consider the wider implications of this policy given the increase in the illicit tobacco market and A$1billion in lost taxes to the Australian government.

“Since plain packaging was introduced in Australia:

  • The amount of tobacco sold equated to an increase of 59 million cigarettes, the first increase in Australian tobacco volumes in over five years;
  • The 3.3 percent average annual decline in Australian smoking rates from 2008 to 2012 has eased, down to 1.4 percent in 2013;
  • Illicit trade in tobacco has increased from 11.8 percent to 13.3 percent, boosting profits for the black market and the criminals that run it.”

BAT said it believed plain packaging failed to respect its minimum guaranteed rights on trademark protection, contravened EU law, affected property rights under U.K. law and infringed the U.K.’s obligations under international law.

“We are clearly not alone in this view given five sovereign states are all at various stages of challenging Australia’s decision to introduce plain packaging via the World Trade Organization with 35 countries, the highest ever, expressing an interest to observe and potentially contribute,” BAT added.

“We support sound regulation that is consultative, evidence-based, delivers its policy aims and factors in potential unintended consequences providing it doesn’t infringe on our legal rights as a business.

“Given the evidence from Australia included in [Chantler]’s report shows plain packaging has failed, we don’t see how the U.K. government could justify implementing this policy.

“We hope the U.K. government continues its logical and pragmatic approach by dismissing plain packaging and looking at alternative tobacco control measures following the announced consultation.”

No robust evidence to back plain packs

| April 4, 2014

Imperial Tobacco said yesterday that it believed there was no robust evidence to support standardized packaging, though it promised to review the Chantler report.

In November, Sir Cyril Chantler, a pediatrician, chairman of University College London Partners and nonexecutive chairman of the Quality and Clinical Risk Committee of NHS (National Health Service) England, was asked by the U.K. government to undertake an independent review of the public health evidence for standardized tobacco packaging.

“The U.K. government has previously made it clear that any decision on plain packaging will be based on the ‘wide range of relevant considerations,’ including the public consultation last year in which two-thirds of respondents said that they were against plain packaging,” Imperial said in a note posted on its website.

“The evidence from Australia, the only country in the world to introduce plain packaging, is clear: There has been no impact on the level of tobacco consumption, but illicit trade has increased from 11.8 to 13.3 percent of total consumption. An updated KPMG report on illicit trade in Australia is due to be published later this month.

“The legislation in Australia remains subject to an ongoing legal challenge by a number of countries [that] have filed complaints with the World Trade Organization, stating that plain packaging violates international rules on intellectual property and international trade obligations.”

Plain packs report disregards evidence

| April 4, 2014

In its response to the Chantler Report and the U.K. government’s statement on standardized packaging, Philip Morris International said Sir Cyril Chantler had chosen to disregard the evidence on standardized packaging from Australia—the only country to have implemented it. (In November, Chantler, a pediatrician, chairman of University College London Partners and nonexecutive chairman of the Quality and Clinical Risk Committee of NHS [National Health Service] England, was asked by the government to undertake an independent review of the public health evidence for standardized tobacco packaging.)

“Instead he has based his conclusions exclusively on the same questionable research that failed to make the case for plain packaging when the government found insufficient evidence to proceed with the policy last year,” PMI said.

“Plain packaging has failed to cut smoking rates, has not deterred youth smokers and has been accompanied by a dramatic growth of the black market. In Australia, legal tobacco sales actually rose in the year following the introduction of plain packaging.

“As the government today made clear, Sir Cyril Chantler’s review looked only at one element of the potential impact of plain packaging. The prime minister and the government have committed to look at the wider evidence on the economic, legal and crime impacts of plain packaging.

“The government should not rush to proceed without holding the full impact assessment they have promised.”

Secondhand smoke in perspective

| April 4, 2014

The mayor of Santee, California, USA, has enraged anti-smoking activists by playing down the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke, according to a report by Natasha Zouves for 10 News.

Santee recently received a failing grade from the American Lung Association for allowing people to smoke in city parks, but Mayor Randy Voepel was unabashed.

“Here’s the deal—I’m not a smoker,” he was quoted as saying. “I might smoke one cigar every month, but cigarette smoking is especially stupid. And if you want to be stupid, you have the freedom to be stupid in Santee.”

But Voepel said he didn’t see secondhand smoke as a “serious” issue.

“You will suck in more carcinogens on your daily commute in the morning than you ever will smelling some faintly wafting secondhand smoke.”

The full report is at http://www.10news.com/news/mayor-of-santee-f-stands-for-freedom.

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