Tasneem Chipty Provides Expert Testimony on the Efficacy of Australia's Tobacco Plain Packaging Legislation

March 4, 2016

Australia's Tobacco Plain Packaging Act (TPP Act), which was passed into law in December 2011, required tobacco manufacturers to produce only tobacco products in plain packaging by October 1, 2012, and retailers to sell only tobacco products in plain packaging by December 1, 2012. The TPP Act replaces branded tobacco packaging with a set of packaging requirements specific to the placement and appearance of brand and company names, the non-use of trademark, color, finish, pack dimensions, and other physical features. Tobacco product packaging is also required to carry updated and enlarged graphic health warnings that Australia introduced through a separate legislation at the same time.

The TPP Act has faced legal challenges on multiple fronts. Initially, the big tobacco companies filed constitutional challenges to the legislation. These challenges were rejected by the High Court of Australia in August 2012. Next, Philip Morris Asia challenged the legislation under an agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Hong Kong for the promotion and protection of investments. Arbitration was conducted under the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Rules, and the tribunal in the arbitration issued a unanimous decision in December 2015 that it has no jurisdiction to hear the case. Finally, the governments of Ukraine, Honduras, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, and Cuba, filed complaints with the World Trade Organization (WTO) arguing that the legislation is inconsistent with Australia's obligations under various WTO agreements. More than 40 WTO members have joined the disputes as third parties. The panel hearing the disputes is not expected to issue its final report to the parties before the first half of 2016.

Tasneem Chipty has submitted six expert reports, on behalf of Australia, to the WTO regarding these trade disputes related to Australia's TPP Act. Most recently, she was retained by Australia's Department of Health to provide an assessment of the policy's impact as part of Australia's internal Post Implementation Review, as administered by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR). Dr. Chipty and an Analysis Group team that included Managing Principal Brian Gorin, Vice Presidents Hiu Man Chan and Jonathan Borck, Manager Ryan Booth, and Associates Anya Blank and Federico Mantovanelli, studied the effects of tobacco control policies in Australia, including tobacco plain packaging, on smoking prevalence. Dr. Chipty found evidence consistent with the conclusion that the TPP Act is having its intended effect. She estimated a statistically significant decline in smoking prevalence of 0.55 percentage points over the post-implementation period, relative to what the prevalence would have been without the packaging changes.

Read Dr. Chipty's report