9. 6. 2020
In Victory for Global Health, World Trade Organization Issues Final Ruling Upholding Australia’s Law Requiring Plain Tobacco Packaging
Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) today issued a final ruling affirming that Australia’s pioneering law requiring plain packaging for tobacco products is entirely consistent with WTO agreements. This ruling is yet another victory for Australia and global health and a resounding defeat for the tobacco industry, which has fiercely fought plain packaging laws. This ruling puts to rest any remaining questions about plain packaging under international trade law.
In 2012, Australia was the first country in the world to implement a plain packaging law for tobacco products. The law requires tobacco products to be sold in plain packages free of colorful branding or marketing from tobacco companies. Today’s ruling upholds Australia’s action in every respect, rejects all of the arguments the tobacco companies have made in their challenges to Australia’s law and confirmed that the evidence shows tobacco plain packaging laws “are apt to, and do in fact, contribute to Australia's objective of reducing the use of, and exposure to, tobacco products.”
Following Australia’s lead, 15 countries have since adopted tobacco plain packaging laws, and many other governments are in the process of formally considering the policy (see up-to-date list of countries that have adopted or are considering such laws).
Originally, five countries issued formal complaints against Australia in the WTO but these were dismissed in full on June 28, 2018. Honduras and Dominican Republic went on to appeal that decision and it has been reported that those countries received technical and financial support from British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International to bring their complaints.
For years, tobacco companies have strongly opposed plain packaging often through intimidating lawsuits meant to bully countries from implementing this life-saving public health measure. Yet to date, the tobacco industry has lost every legal challenge to plain packaging in international and national courts, not only in Australia, but also in the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Israel and the European u nion.
As more countries around the world consider plain packaging, tobacco companies have tried to use the ongoing WTO appeal to argue that governments should delay the decision to move forward with plain packaging. Today’s decision confirms that plain packaging laws are both scientifically and legally sound. Other countries considering plain packaging should move forward with the confidence that they can defeat tobacco industry challenges.
Tobacco use kills more than eight million people worldwide each year and is projected to kill one billion people this century unless countries take strong action now to prevent it. Plain packaging is a bold strategy to save lives that should be implemented as a key element of a comprehensive approach to reducing tobacco use, along with graphic health warnings, advertising bans, higher tobacco taxes and 100 percent smoke-free laws.