Australian government delays review of tobacco branding ban

Australian government’s own data has shown no change to the pre-existing decline in smoking rates and JTI Ireland believes government should "own up to this failure"

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30 November 2015 | 0

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On the third anniversary of the introduction of Australia’s ‘plain’ packaging legislation for tobacco products, the country’s government is still refusing to admit its failure, representatives for the tobacco industry have claimed.

In a press statement, tobacco manufacturer JTI said the policy’s failure explains why the Australian Department of Health (DoH) is pushing back the publication of its Post-Implementation Review (PIR).

The delay is a potential cause for concern in Ireland, where a version of the branding ban was enacted earlier this year. Significantly, since the introduction of the Australian branding ban in December 2012, the government’s own data has shown no change to the pre-existing decline in smoking rates*.

Minutes of a Senate debate held in October** highlight the uneasiness surrounding the PIR and the difficulty that the department is having in producing a report which complies with government guidelines. It illustrates fears that the review may be sub-standard by not measuring the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act against its original objectives. “Anti-tobacco lobbyists have misrepresented the data to hide the fact that the ban on brands has failed,” said Igor Dzaja, JTI Ireland’s general manager.

“Australia – the only country where the measure has been introduced – cannot be held up as a model for countries such as Ireland to follow,” he added. “The DoH in Australia is desperate to prove the success of this policy but all of the evidence – their own evidence – points to failure. The government should own up to this failure, and the PIR is an opportunity to do that. If this review is not completed and published soon, and if it is not compliant with the government’s own standards, other countries will be misled,” Dzaja added.

Official guidelines*** state that PIRs on major policies such as the plain packaging law should be conducted within two years of the policy being introduced, and completed within six months. They require PIRs to measure the success of the policy against the original objectives of the legislation.

*(Source: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2013: tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs)

**(Source: 2 Proof Committee Hansard (Senate), Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, Estimates, Monday, October 19, 2015, Canberra, p. 93-95)

***(Source: Guidance note, Australian Government, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office of Best Practice Regulations, July 2014, p.1)

 

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