On the third anniversary of Australia’s controversial plain packaging legislation for tobacco products, the government is still refusing to admit its failure. This would explain why the department of health (DoH) is pushing back the publication of its post-implementation review (PIR).
Since the introduction of the 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 2015 highlight the uneasiness surrounding the PIR and the difficulty that the DoH 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”, says Michiel Reerink, JTI’s regulatory strategy vice president. “Australia – the only country where the measure has been introduced – cannot be held up as a model for other countries to follow,” he adds.
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.
“The DoH 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,” concludes Reerink.