Tag: australia

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JTI calls for transparency on plain-packaging report

| October 6, 2015

The Australian government has not yet published its Post-Implementation Review (PIR) regarding plain-packaging six months after the conclusion of the consultation period.

This delay in publishing has raised concerns about the integrity of the report and caused concerns that its authors could be misrepresenting data or omitting evidence in order to ensure the country’s plain-packaging policy is viewed as a success.

Plain packaging was introduced in Australia in 2012 with an end goal of reducing the nation’s smoking rates. According to the Australian government, the objectives of the plain packaging measure are to reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products to consumers; increase the noticeability and effectiveness of mandated health warnings; reduce the ability of the retail packaging of tobacco products to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking; and to ultimately reduce smoking rates.

In the three years since plain packaging was introduced in Australia, no change to the decline in smoking rates has been shown, according to the latest official data from the Australian government. Without evidence of a decline in smoking rates, supporters of plain packaging are finding it difficult to claim the measures have achieved their goals.

“The Department of Health [DoH] knows that this policy has failed,” said Michiel Reerink, Japan Tobacco International’s (JTI) regulatory strategy vice president. “The objective of the ban on brands was to improve public health by discouraging people from using tobacco products, and reducing their exposure to tobacco smoke. The government’s own data shows that these objectives have not been met.”

The DoH began its review of Australia’s plain packaging earlier this year, at which time it requested information detailing the impact the policy has had since its implementation. The consultation period ended in March. Although government guidelines suggest that PIRs should be published within three to six months after information is gathered, the Australian government has yet to publish this information.

“Tobacco control lobbyists are traveling around the world on taxpayers’ money to convince regulators that plain packaging has been a success in Australia,” said Reerink. “But anyone who looks at the official data can see for themselves: There is no proof that this ban on brands has worked.”

JTI has called for transparency from the Australian government regarding publication of the PIR.

“We urge the Department of Health to publish a complete and transparent review of this policy, without further delay,” says Reerink. “The PIR should be based on all of the evidence, in line with the requirements of the Australian Government’s Office of Best Practice Regulation. Crucially, the results of the plain packaging policy should be measured against its original objectives. Without this report being published soon, people risk being misled by biased reports and analysis on a measure that has done nothing to improve public health.”

Ukraine drops plain-packaging lawsuit against Australia

| June 4, 2015

Ukraine has suspended the legal proceedings it brought against Australia through the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2012, which claimed the country’s plain-packaging laws were trade-restrictive. Instead, the Eastern European nation—which received financial support from British American Tobacco to pursue litigation—has stated it will attempt to seek a mutually agreed-upon solution with Australia to resolve the issue.

Ukraine was the first of five countries to challenge Australia’s plain-packaging laws at the WTO, despite the fact that Ukraine does not currently export tobacco to Australia. The other countries who have launched lawsuits against Australia—Indonesia, Cuba, Honduras and the Dominican Republic—have not announced any plans to drop their lawsuits challenging the strict packaging laws banning company logos and requiring cigarettes to be sold in olive-colored packages with brand names printed in standardized fonts.

According to WTO rules, Ukraine’s suspension could last one year, after which time its right to return to the panel proceedings will lapse. The WTO adjudication panel is expected to rule on the remaining plain-packaging lawsuits in the first half of 2016.

Aussies to jack up tobacco tax in 2014

| May 14, 2013

The price of a pack of cigarettes will rise by about $0.07 next year in Australia, according to a story in the Herald Sun.

The increase will see the government face a potential re-election tussle with tobacco companies and retailers, who are still smarting over plain packaging laws.

Cigarettes were the only sin tax targeted by Treasurer Wayne Swan’s big-cutting budget. Last year’s budget saw an increase on taxes on beer and cut the number of duty-free cigarettes Australians could bring home after travelling overseas.

The duty free cuts last year were set to raise $175 million by 2015.

A pack of 25 cigarettes will be $0.07 more expensive from the first half of 2014, after a change in indexation that sees tobacco excise keep pace with salary rises. Budget papers did not reveal how much this would raise.

Diggers reject mine sites smoking ban

| May 14, 2013

A call by the Cancer Council for smoking to be banned at all West Australian (WA) mines sites has been rejected, according to an Australian Associated Press report.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) has said that a ban would cause resentment.

WA’s Department of Mines and Petroleum data show smoking rates in the mining sector are almost double the national average.

The CME’s manager of occupational health and safety, Richard Wilson, was quoted as saying that public health campaigners needed to design strategies to improve the health of the whole population, not target specific industries.

“Singling out one sector above others just causes resentment amongst people in that industry and fails to improve health outcomes across the population,” Wilson said.

Cuba joins fight over Aussie plain packaging rules

| May 6, 2013

Cuba has become the latest country to launch a legal attack on Australia’s landmark plain packaging rules for tobacco at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The laws came into effect last December and mean cigarettes can only be sold in brown packages with graphic health warnings. The WTO says Cuba has requested consultations with Australia on the legislation, which covers all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. Under the 159-nation WTO’s rules, requesting consultations is the first step in an often complex trade dispute settlement process which can last for several years.

The laws have already been challenged at the WTO by Cuba’s fellow cigar-producing nations Honduras and the Dominican Republic. In addition, the Ukraine has filed a suit at the Geneva-based body, which oversees its member nations’ respect for the rules of global commerce, according to the Australian news company ABC.

All the plaintiff countries maintain that Australia’s packaging law breaches international trade rules and intellectual property rights.

In the event that the WTO’s disputes settlement body finds in their favor, it would have the power to authorize retaliatory trade measures against Australia if the country failed to fall into line. The dispute with Australia marks the first-ever challenge by Cuba against a fellow member since it joined the global body in April 1995, four months after the WTO was founded in its current form.

The plain packaging laws have won wide praise from health organizations which are trying to curb smoking. But the government has faced a string of court challenges from tobacco firms.

Besides trade and intellectual property concerns, tobacco companies say there is no proof that plain packaging reduces smoking and have warned that the law sets a precedent that could spread to products such as alcohol.

Australian fund gets tough on TOMRA’s tobacco ties

| April 23, 2013

An Australian superannuation and investment fund is leading an international effort to pressure a Norwegian machinery maker to leave the tobacco  industry.

In what amounts to a new front in the war against tobacco, Australian Ethical will put forward a resolution on Monday at the annual general meeting of Norwegian company TOMRA, demanding it stop selling tobacco sorting machines.

Australian Ethical, which manages more than $600 million on behalf of about 18,000 investors, has long invested in TOMRA, which makes machinery used in recycling.

Last year, when TOMRA bought Best Sorting, a Belgian company that makes tobacco sorting machines, Australian Ethical wrote to TOMRA, asking it to get out of the area. When it refused, Australian Ethical approached other investors in the company for support.

The resolution calls on the company to stop selling tobacco sorting machines to the tobacco industry within six months. If the resolution received majority support, it would be binding on the company. If it fails, Australian Ethical will sell its stake in TOMRA.

In February the Future Fund announced it would sell its tobacco investments - valued then at about $222 million – citing the damaging health effects and addictive properties of tobacco.