Tobacco companies call on governments to re-think plain packaging

Regulators have a choice between introducing policies that actually work, or succumbing to pressure groups who continue to ignore the simple fact: plain packaging has  failed.


16 September 2015; Bologna, Italy:

Tobacco companies and smoking experts have called on governments to re-think plans for tobacco plain packaging, claiming the measure has not worked in Australia. The evidence speaks for itself, according to commentators at a global industry summit, who called on regulators to look for better ways to reduce smoking rates.

Their call comes as several governments consider introducing plain packaging despite the policy failing in Australia, where figures show it has not led to a fall in smoking rates or a decline in cigarette sales.

Leaders of the world’s biggest tobacco companies are speaking alongside think-tank bosses and public health experts at the GTNF – the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum – kicking off today in Bologna, Italy.

Michiel Reerink, Vice President of Global Regulatory Strategy at JTI (Japan Tobacco International) will tell delegates this morning: “The evidence is clear: plain packaging for tobacco has failed to impact smoking rates in Australia. So, why do anti-tobacco lobbyists continue their efforts trying to convince regulators in other parts of the world that the policy has been a success? As plain packaging has not contributed to protecting public health, why do they try to damage our industry by taking away our most valuable property – our brands?”

Speakers also warned delegates that plain packaging for tobacco sets a dangerous precedent for other products, with health lobbyists already calling for similar measures on alcohol, fast- food and soda.

Flora Okereke, Head of Regulatory Policy and Engagement, Legal and External Affairs at  British American Tobacco, comments:

“Excessive regulation is increasingly no longer just the preserve of the tobacco industry – more extreme, ‘tobacco-style’ regulation is quickly spreading to other sectors like food, drink and alcohol. Driven by a highly-organised health lobby, the rising tide of draconian regulation is getting ever higher with increased calls for special taxes and different labelling; and the health advocates are not done yet.

“Tobacco-style” regulation is a slippery slope towards an excessively restrictive regulatory landscape, and once begun, there is no going back. As we have seen in the tobacco industry, political pressure on countries to adopt increasingly excessive regulation and with no proper scrutiny of its effectiveness once adopted has led to measures like plain packaging, which is failing to meet its original public health goals in Australia.

“With the food, drink and alcohol sectors coming under increased scrutiny, the question remains: where tobacco led, who is set to follow?”

Mark Littlewood, Director General of London think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, adds: “We now know conclusively that this policy failed in Australia. The evidence is right there for all to see. Yet still, governments around the world are considering introducing the same laws as they bow to pressure from lobby groups.

“Plain packaging has shown that there is no policy too absurd for the public health lobby. Having flown in the face of the evidence, what next? This prohibitionist crusade has gone too far.

Policy-makers must draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough.”


About the GTNF

The GTNF (Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum), organized by Tobacco Reporter magazine, is the world’s leading conference on tobacco and next-generation nicotine products. It brings together industry, commentators, and external experts for three days of discussions and networking. The GTNF debuted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2008 and has subsequently been held in Bangalore, India (2010), Antwerp, Belgium (2012), Cape Town, South Africa (2013) and West Virginia, USA (2014). This year it takes place in Bologna, Italy. For more information, visit:

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