tobacco packaging

Four global tobacco companies have misused Better Regulation to undermine public health in the UK, according to a report from the University of Bath’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR).

The firms, including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International, are suspected to have tried to delay the plain packaging law in the country by using the framework.

The Better Regulation framework requires the government to assess the impact on businesses while drafting new laws, taking company interests under consideration.

It requires the companies to submit evidences for framing the policies.

However, the four tobacco companies did not submit evidence indicating that branded packaging played a crucial role in the marketing of their products. This can be considered as an attempt to derail the law for plain standardised cigarette packaging.

“The idea that allowing them to present their own evidence will somehow improve regulation is ludicrous.”

The UK researchers urged the government to modify the policy making process, by making it more transparent and open in order to avoid delays in making public health policies across products, including tobacco, alcohol, sugar sweetened foods and soft drinks.

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The specified products have been found to affect consumers in the country, leading them towards high rates of non-communicable diseases, such as cancers, stroke and heart diseases.

University of Bath principal investigator professor Anna Gilmore said: “Under the guise of supporting evidence based policy and good governance, the tobacco industry is instead using the opportunities presented by Better Regulation to undermine and derail life-saving legislation, by misquoting evidence and swamping the policy process with their own misleading research.

“The tobacco industry has, over decades, lied about the addictiveness of its product, about the health impacts of its products and about the impacts of legislation.

“The idea that allowing them to present their own evidence will somehow improve regulation is ludicrous.

“Whilst there is a requirement within the principles of Better Regulation to prioritise business interests and reduce regulatory costs, policy makers need to fundamentally re-evaluate whether these should apply in a public health context.”

MPs in the country voted in March to introduce plain standardised cigarette packaging in the UK from May next year.

Image: Excessive consumption of tobacco can lead to non-communicable diseases, such as cancers, stroke and heart diseases. Photo: courtesy of University of Bath.