2011 WLNR 12604968
Inside US Trade
Copyright 2011 Inside Washington Publishers. All Rights Reserved.
June 24, 2011
Volume 29; Issue 25
AUSTRALIA DEFENDS TOBACCO PACKAGING LAW AS BACKED BY SOLID RESEARCH
Australia has fought back against critics of its proposed law mandating plain packaging for tobacco products that would ban the use of trademarks, emphasizing that it is backed by several studies showing that such a requirement will help reduce smoking if it is part of a comprehensive set of tobacco control measures.
In a presentation to a June 15-16 meeting of the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee, Australia noted that the proposed packaging restrictions scheduled to go into effect in July 2012 are one of several measures aimed at reducing smoking in the draft law.
The draft law also includes a 25 percent increase in the excise tax on tobacco, increased investment in anti-tobacco social marketing campaigns and bringing restrictions on internet tobacco advertising in line with restrictions in other media, according to the Australian statement.
These measures were recommended by the National Preventative Health Task Force as steps to improve public health by reducing the appeal of tobacco products, reduce the ability of packaging to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking and increasing the effectiveness of public health warnings, according to the statement.
The task force’s findings were bolstered by 12 peer-reviewed research papers as well as nine additional studies, which Australia explained were all publicly available.
Australia also questioned the veracity of a report cited by Cuba and Chile which found no significant relationship between the regulations on tobacco packaging and reductions in tobacco consumption by saying that the report was commissioned by British America Tobacco and contains several misleading statements and that its data usage is “highly selective.”
The Australian statement also highlighted a series of measures it has taken over the past 30 years to reduce smoking but that these did not create the desired results in cutting down tobacco use.
Australia rejected complaints by some trading partners that the proposed measure would violate WTO rules in the TBT agreement and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Australia emphasized that the legislation was developed with full regard to the obligations of the TBT agreement and other WTO commitments and will be implemented accordingly.
TBT Article 2.2, which says that technical regulations should not be more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill a legitimate objective. Article 20 of the TRIPS says that signatories should not impose any unjustified special requirements on the use of trademarks.
Australia also noted that that the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control recommends that parties consider the introduction of plain packaging.
Australia also rejected an argument used by U.S. business groups that plain packaging will increase illicit trade in counterfeit tobacco products. Anti-counterfeiting marks will be allowed to be used in plain packaging provided they are not linked to tobacco marketing or promotion and do not interfere with health warnings.
The statement also pointed out counterfeiters currently have little trouble replicating branded tobacco packages.
The European Union, which said it was considering the possibility of a plain packaging law, had asked Australia whether there were studies backing up its conclusion that plain packaging would reduce smoking. The EU also asked whether Australia has considered “other legislative solutions” to curb smoking and wondered why such alternatives were considered less effective than plain packaging.