Taskforce on Tobacco Control

10 February 2012

The Australia India Institute Taskforce on Tobacco Control (the Taskforce) has been established to determine whether plain packaging legislation for all types of tobacco products is a viable tobacco control measure in India. The Taskforce is funded and supported by the Australia India Institute and is composed of experts in the field from both countries. The Taskforce presented a summary of tobacco control’s short history and the significance of plain packaging at the Australia India Institute's Asian Century conference in Kolkata on December 6th, 2011.

A literature review is currently being conducted to synthesize the history of pictorial health warnings and product packaging of tobacco in India, and to compare it to the process Australia took to successfully develop plain packaging legislation. Potential challenges and roadblocks will be highlighted in the review, particularly given that this kind of policy change has to occur in the environment of a global market economy governed by bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.

Market research on plain packaging will also be conducted in New Delhi (the first of its kind), in the form of focus group discussions, a stakeholder analysis and an opinion poll, to ascertain the acceptability and potential effectiveness of plain-packaged tobacco products in India, and the results will be included in a comprehensive policy paper.

The Taskforce plans to launch this policy document on World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2012 in parallel with several high level events that will bring together experts and advocates from both countries.

A controversial measure to restrict tobacco advertising has officially entered the political arena, as Australia recently became the first country to successfully pass plain packaging legislation. The bill, which comes into effect on December 1 of this year, will force cigarettes to be sold in plain packs with a large, graphic health warning, while a second bill will force the removal of company trademarks from packs.

Public health experts have for decades recognized the influence of pack design and branding on an individual’s tobacco consumption habits, especially on young people. The goal of such legislation is not only to reduce tobacco consumption, but also to inhibit the uptake of a tobacco habit. In the last four decades Australia has made significant advances in reducing tobacco consumption levels to record lows.

Read a report from the  AII Taskforce on Tobacco Control