Tag: plain packaging

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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.”

Tobacco giants sue Britain over plain-packaging

| June 4, 2015

Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco (BAT) have sued the British government over plain-packaging legislation passed in March. The law, which would take effect from May 2016, requires cigarettes to be sold in packages of uniform shape and size that feature only the brand name and contain prominent graphic health warnings. England is the third and most populous country to introduce plain-packaging laws, following Australia and Ireland.

PMI argues that England’s plain-packaging regulations “unlawfully deprive PMI of its trademarks” and should therefore be overturned, according to an article in The New York Times. London-based BAT stated that the British government had left the company “with no other choice” and released a statement saying that “any business that has property taken away from it by the state would inevitably want to challenge and seek compensation.” Japan Tobacco International has also indicated it would challenge England’s legislation. The tobacco companies are seeking unspecified damages, which could total billions of dollars if granted.

A statement released by the English Department of Health said it would “not allow public health policy to be held to ransom by the tobacco industry” and that it “would not have gone ahead with standardized packaging unless we had considered it to be defensible in the courts.”

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.

U.K. passes cigarette-packaging law

| March 17, 2015

The U.K. House of Lords on March 16 approved a bill requiring cigarettes to be sold in standardized packaging.

The House of Commons on March 11 voted 367 to 113 in favor of the law, which passed through the House of Lords without a vote. Starting in May 2016, cigarettes must be sold in packages of the same shape, size and design, with the only difference between packages being the name of the brand and the graphic health warning displayed on the cartons. The U.K. is the third country to introduce plain-packaging legislation; Ireland introduced a similar bill earlier this month, and Australia implemented plain packaging in 2012.

While various health organizations have championed the legislation in the belief that standardized packaging will render cigarettes less appealing to smokers, particularly minors, tobacco companies—who fear a significant loss of profits once the law is implemented—have threatened legal action against the U.K. government. Opponents of plain packaging also point to the potential uptick in cigarette smuggling and illicit trade that could occur as a result.

Ireland embraces plain packaging

| May 28, 2013

Ireland may become the second country to require standardized packaging for cigarettes, reports the Kildare Nationalist.

Health Minister James Reilly announced government approval for his controversial plans, which he hopes to have enacted early next year. Plain packaging made its global debut late last year in Australia.

An Irish retail group cautioned the move would help criminals and fuel cigarette smuggling. Retailers Against Smuggling accused the minister of “not giving a damn” about independent retailers. Tobacco companies claimed plain packaging would do more harm to the economy by making smuggling easier rather than stopping children from taking up the habit.

Reilly said while many arguments will be made against the move, he is confident the legislation will be justified and supported purely by the fact that it will save lives.

Ireland has been at the forefront of tobacco control. It was the world’s first country to enforce a workplace smoking ban, which included pubs and restaurants, in March 2004, and the first EU country to remove all tobacco advertising from retail outlets.

Supreme Court denies cert in cig labeling case, FDA plans new rules

| May 10, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a writ of certiorari filed by the tobacco companies challenging the advertising regulations promulgated pursuant to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Act.

While the Court’s cert denial allows a previous 6th Circuit decision to stand, the contested rules may never be enforced. The Solicitor General declined to file a writ of certiorari in the D.C. Circuit case and in a letter from U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. noted that the FDA plans to engage in “new rulemaking consistent with the Tobacco Control Act.”

Because the FDA has indicated that it plans to engage in new rulemaking, the tobacco companies have effectively avoided compliance with the stringent new rules.

The tobacco companies made two separate challenges to the rules. In the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, and Liggett Group, among others, sought an injunction against the enforcement of the new requirements. The U.S. District Court agreed that the “mandatory graphic images unconstitutionally compel speech” and that the tobacco companies would “suffer irreparable harm absent injunctive relief pending a judicial review of the constitutionality of the FDA’s rules.” The FDA appealed, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

At the same time, another group of tobacco companies filed a facial First Amendment challenge to the rules in their entirety – and got an entirely different result. A federal court judge in Kentucky upheld the rules, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that “the Act’s warnings are reasonably related to the government’s interest in preventing consumer deception and are therefore constitutional.”

The defendants then filed cert with the U.S. Supreme Court, which the justices denied in late April.