Attack on Australia: Tobacco industry challenges to plain packaging


In 2011, the Australian Government passed landmark legislation requiring tobacco manufacturers to adopt ‘plain packaging’, a government-mandated design standardized across all brands of tobacco products. In response, plain packaging policy in Australia has faced multiple, simultaneous challenges from a global, well-resourced industry able to use all available fora to seek redress. Generalizing from the Australian experience, we analyze four types of challenges to plain packaging from the tobacco industry. We characterize three ways in which industry questions public health policies through international trade and investment law, on: (i) the intent or purpose of the policy; (ii) the economic consequences of it; and (iii) the regulatory authority behind it. We make recommendations and suggest that public health policymakers can know with some precision what attacks will be launched on tobacco control policies, and prepare their strategies and legislation accordingly.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Chapman, S. and Freeman, B. (2010) The cancer emperor’s new clothes: Australia’s historic legislation for plain tobacco packaging. British Medical Journal 340: c2436, 5 May.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Philip Morris Asia Limited. (2011) Notice of Arbitration,, accessed 21 August 2012.

  3. Giavino, G.A. et al (2012) Tobacco use in 3 billion individuals from 16 countries: An analysis of nationally representative cross-sectional household surveys. The Lancet 380 (9842): 668–679.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Freeman, B., Chapman, S. and Rimmer, M. (2008) The case for the plain packaging of tobacco products. Addiction 103 (4): 580–590.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Wakefield, M., Morley, C., Horan, J.K and Cummings, K.M. (2002) The cigarette pack as image: New evidence from tobacco industry documents. Tobacco Control 11 (Suppl 1): i73–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Moodie, C. et al (2012) Plain Tobacco Packaging: A Systematic Review. Stirling, Scotland: University of Stirling.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Eriksen, M., Mackay, J. and Ross, H. (2012) The Tobacco Atlas, 4th edn. Atlanta, GA; New York: American Cancer Society; World Lung Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Tobacco Plain Packaging Act (2011) (Cth) No. 148, Australia.

  9. Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Act (2011) (Cth) No. 149, Australia.

  10. Tobacco Plain Packaging Regulations. (2011) (Cth), Select Legislative Instrument (2011) (Cth) No. 263, Australia.

  11. Imperial Tobacco Australia Limited. (2011) Submission to the House Standing Committee on Health and Aging Regarding the Inquiry into Plain Tobacco Packaging, 27 July, Australia.

  12. Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, s 51(xxxi).

  13. High Court of Australia. (2012) JT International SA v Commonwealth of Australia; British American Tobacco Australasia Limited & ORS v Commonwealth of Australia HCA 30.

  14. Japan Tobacco International. (2012) Australian High Court decision on plain packaging,, accessed 11 January 2013.

  15. UNCTAD. (2012) Investment instruments online,, accessed 20 December 2012.

  16. Voon, T.S. and Mitchell, A.D. (2011) Time to quit? Assessing international investment claims against plain tobacco packaging in Australia. Journal of International Economic Law 14 (3): 515–552.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. World Health Organization. (2011) Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic,, accessed 20 August 2012.

  18. Imperial Tobacco. (n.d.) Tobacco market in Ukraine,, accessed 20 August 2012.

  19. Commonwealth of Australia. (2011) Response to notice of arbitration,, accessed 21 August 2012.

  20. McGrady, B. (2011) Trade and Public Health: The WTO, Tobacco, Alcohol, and Diet. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. World Trade Organization. (2012) Australia – Certain measures concerning trademarks and other plain packaging requirements applicable to tobacco products and packaging (DS434, DS435, DS436),, accessed 20 August 2012.

  22. Parker, J. (2009) Cigarette trade changing in Central America. Tobacco International (November),, accessed 21 August 2012.

  23. Farner Consulting SA. (2012) The Dominican Republic requests WTO consultations with Australia concerning plain packaging for tobacco products. Marketwire, 18 July,, accessed 21 August 2012.

  24. Corderoy, A. (2012) Mystery over Ukraine tobacco law challenge. Sydney Morning Herald 27 March,, accessed 21 August 2012.

  25. Thompson, C. (2012) Big tobacco backs Australian law opposers, Financial Times 29 April.

  26. UNCTAD. (2009) The Role of International Investment Agreements in Attracting Foreign Direct Investment to Developing Countries. New York and Geneva: United Nations.

  27. Office of the United States Trade Representative. (2012) Fact Sheet: TPP tobacco proposal. May,, accessed 15 June 2012.

  28. Philip Morris International. (2009) Public submission in response to USTR consultation on TPP, (USTR-2009-0041-0016),, accessed 23 August 2012.

  29. Waxman, H. (2012) Letter to the USTR regarding proposed tobacco exemption from the TPP, 22 May,, accessed 15 June 2012.

  30. Drope, J. and Lenchucha, R. (2013) Tobacco control and trade policy: Proactive strategies for integrating policy norms. Journal of Public Health Policy 34 (1): 153–164.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Jarman, H., Schmidt, J. and Rubin, D.B. (2012) When trade law meets public health evidence: The World Trade Organization and clove cigarettes. Tobacco Control 21 (6): 596–598.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Additional information

The author spells out how industry tries to undermine public health policies using international trade and investment law.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Jarman, H. Attack on Australia: Tobacco industry challenges to plain packaging. J Public Health Pol 34, 375–387 (2013).

Download citation


  • tobacco
  • trade
  • investment
  • governance
  • global
  • lobbying