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BAT's response to WTO plain packaging decision

09 June 2020

Today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body ruled in favour of Australia in the dispute relating to plain packaging for combustible products in the Australian market. This decision marks the end of a dispute that started over eight years ago when five countries challenged the legality of plain packaging.

The decision means plain packaging measures are allowed to stand in Australia, although the WTO recognised several shortcomings in the analysis of the first WTO Panel which examined this dispute. Although BAT is not party to the proceedings, below is our statement on the latest decision:

A BAT spokesperson said: “Naturally, we are disappointed with the ultimate findings of the report. However, it is important to note that decisions from the WTO Panel or Appellate Body do not set a global precedent when it comes to this measure, and will only be binding to the parties involved in this dispute.

“This report is not an endorsement on the effectiveness of plain packaging. In fact, the Appellate Body actually dismissed the Panel’s finding that plain packaging reduced the consumption of tobacco products. Following this ruling, it is clear that Governments considering plain packaging need to take a fresh look at claims that the measure reduces smoking levels.

“We believe a more effective way for governments to address smoking rates is to focus their efforts on providing smokers with a greater choice of potentially reduced risk alternatives, such as vapour products.

“We remain firm in our belief that plain packaging is an ineffective and disproportionate measure that doesn’t reduce smoking levels. Our position that plain packaging is bad policy, continues to be supported by the evidence coming out of Australia that shows the measure has not achieved its objective of reducing smoking rates.”


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