Last updated: September 2021
Suggested citation: Slattery, C., Zhou, S., George, A. & Liberman, J. 19.4 Obligations relating to demand reduction for tobacco products. In Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2021. Available from: https://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-19-ftct/19-4-obligations-relating-to-demand-reduction-for-tobacco-products-
Parties to the WHO FCTC commit to recognising the effectiveness of several price and non-price measures to reduce demand for tobacco, and agree to implement them into their domestic law.
19.4.1 Price and tax measures (Article 6)
Under Article 6, Parties have accepted obligations in respect of the adoption or maintenance of price and tax measures, and in respect of reporting on rates of taxation and trends in tobacco consumption. They also commit to prohibiting or restricting sales to and/or importations by international travellers of tax- and duty-free tobacco products.
Most recently, Australia introduced staged 12.5% increases in excise and excise-equivalent customs duty on tobacco and tobacco-related products on 1 December 2013, followed by additional 12.5% increases on 1 September 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 in the implementation of its obligations under Article 6 of the WHO FCTC, utilising Guidelines for Implementation of Article 6 of the WHO FCTC in the development and implementation of the policies.1 From 1 July 2017, the duty free tobacco allowance in Australia is limited to 25 cigarettes, or equivalent.2
As part of the 2017-18 Federal Budget, the Australian Government adjusted the taxation of roll your own (RYO) tobacco and other products such as cigars, so that these products receive more comparable tax treatment to manufactured cigarettes.3 For four years starting 1 September 2017, excise rates on RYO and other tobacco products were adjusted annually.1
For more information on price and tax measures in relation to tobacco in Australia, see Chapter 13, The pricing and taxation of tobacco products in Australia.
19.4.2 Non-price measures (articles 7–14)
Parties are also obliged to implement comprehensive non-price measures to reduce tobacco consumption (Article 7). The non-price measures contained in the WHO FCTC are:
Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke (Article 8): Under Article 8, in recognising that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disabilities, Parties have accepted obligations to adopt effective legislative, executive, and administrative and/or other measures providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places, and as appropriate, other public places.
Guidelines to assist Parties in meeting their obligations under Article 8 were adopted by the COP at its second session (COP-2).4, 5 The Guidelines ‘identify the measures necessary to achieve effective protection from the hazards of secondhand tobacco smoke’, based on ‘the best available evidence and the experience of Parties that have successfully implemented effective measures’. Key principles agreed in the Guidelines for implementation of Article 8 include:
- that effective protection requires the creation of 100% smoke free environments;
- that all people should be protected from exposure to tobacco smoke;
- that legislation is necessary for effective protection and that voluntary smoke free policies are ineffective;
- that good planning, adequate resources and participation by civil society are all essential for successful implementation and enforcement of smoke free legislation;
- civil society has a central role in building support, and ensuring compliance, with smoke free measures;
- that monitoring and evaluation of the implementation, enforcement and impact of smoke free legislation is necessary; and
- that measures to protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke should be strengthened and expanded as necessary to reflect new scientific evidence and case-study experiences.
The Article 8 Guidelines state that Article 8 imposes ‘an obligation to provide universal protection by ensuring that all indoor public places, all indoor workplaces, all public transport, and possibly other (outdoor or quasi-outdoor) public places are free from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.’ Parties unable to provide universal protection should move as quickly as possible towards it, with an obligation to achieve universal protection within five years of the entry into force of the WHO FCTC for that party. Smoke free laws should also cover outdoor or quasi-outdoor places wherever the evidence shows that a hazard exists. The Guidelines outline effective measures for enforcement including penalties, such as fines and administrative sanctions, and monitoring processes.
In Australia, state and territory governments assume primary responsibility for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, with only a few smokefree policies implemented at a national level, such as airports and aeroplanes. Although variations exist in smokefree legislation across jurisdictions, all Australian states and territories have banned smoking indoors in offices, bars, restaurants and many other public spaces, as well as on most public transport. In each jurisdiction, penalty and enforcement provisions apply where bans are not adhered to. All jurisdictions have smoking bans or restrictions on smoking in some outdoor public places.1
In most jurisdictions there are, however, some notable exceptions to the general ban on smoking in indoor public places. For example, unlike in the US (where more than 28 states and hundreds of local cities and counties have legislated to require a minimum proportion of smokefree rooms in hotels), in Australia, most states and territories retain exemptions from smoking bans for private rooms in sleeping accommodation, including hotels and motels. In addition, several states and territories have included exemptions in their smokefree legislation for high-roller rooms in casinos. These exceptions have the effect of exposing workers to the dangers of secondhand smoke. For more information, see Chapter 15, Smokefree environments.
19.4.3 Regulation of the contents of tobacco products (Article 9) and regulation of tobacco product disclosures (Article 10)
Article 9 of the WHO FCTC states Parties shall, where approved by competent national authorities, adopt and implement effective legislative, executive and administrative or other measures for the testing, measuring, and regulation of the contents and emissions of tobacco products. In accordance with the Partial Guidelines for Implementation of Articles 9 and 10, this includes regulation to reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products by prohibiting or restricting certain ingredients, such as flavourings, colourings, or ingredients that suggest health, energy or vitality (such as vitamins or caffeine) or that increase palatability.
Under Article 10 of the WHO FCTC, Parties shall adopt requirements for the disclosure of information about the contents and emissions of tobacco products to governmental authorities, and for the disclosure of information about toxic constituents of tobacco products and their emissions to the public. The Partial Guidelines for Implementation of Articles 9 and 10 provide guidance on requirements for disclosure to governmental authorities about the ingredients of tobacco products and about tobacco product characteristics, such as design features.
The Australian Government Department of Health has indicated it is in the preliminary stage of considering options and developing a regulation impact statement for implementation of the WHO FCTC Partial Guidelines for Implementation of Articles 9 and 10. Nearly all states and territories have prohibited the retail sale of fruit and confectionery flavoured cigarettes.6 For more information on the construction and labelling of Australian cigarettes, see Chapter 12. See also Chapter 18, Section 18.2.
19.4.4 Packaging and labelling of tobacco products (Article 11)
Parties have accepted obligations to adopt and implement a number of measures regarding tobacco packaging. Under Article 11, States undertake to ensure that:
- tobacco product packaging and labelling ‘do not promote a tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading, deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, health effects, hazards, or emissions’ including through any element that ‘directly or indirectly creates the false impression that a particular tobacco product is less harmful than other tobacco products’.
- tobacco product packaging includes health warnings. These must be approved by the competent national authorities and must be rotating, large, clear, visible, and legible. They may take the form of or include pictures or pictograms. Warnings must cover at least 30% of the principal display areas and should cover at least 50%. The Article 11 Guidelines 7 recommend that Parties adopt graphic or pictorial health warnings that are as large as possible to ensure their effectiveness.
- Unit packages include information on relevant constituents and emissions. The Article 11 Guidelines suggest that these should list the constituents and emissions, but not include quantities of those emissions, so as to avoid the use of such information to suggest that certain tobacco products are less harmful than others.
- The Article 11 Guidelines in particular recommend measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style (‘plain’ or ‘standardized’ packaging).
The Australian Government became the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products, with all tobacco products sold in Australia required to comply with the tobacco plain packaging legislation since December 2012. The legislation bans the use of logos, brand imagery, symbols, other images, colours and promotional text on tobacco products and tobacco product packaging. Packaging must be a standard drab dark brown colour in matt finish. Packs are distinguished by brand and product name printed in a standard colour, position, font size and style. Cigarette packs must be rectangular and made of rigid cardboard, with no embellishments. The pack opening must be a flip-top lid, hinged at the back of the pack. The legislation also specifies maximum and minimum size restrictions for packs. A more detailed examination of Australia’s plain packaging scheme and the role of the WHO FCTC in the process of developing and defending the measure can be found in Section 19.10 of this chapter and Chapter 11, In Depth 11A.5. A Post Implementation Review of Tobacco Plain Packaging released by the Australian Government on 26 February 2016 confirms the measure has begun achieving the objectives of reducing smoking prevalence and exposure to tobacco smoke in Australia (See Chapter 11, In Depth 11A.9). Graphic health warnings are required on at least 75% of the front and 90% of the back of cigarette packaging.8 In accordance with WHO FCTC Article 11 Guidelines, qualitative not quantitative information about the constituents and emissions of tobacco products are provided in Australia.6 (see Chapter 12, Section 12.3 Labelling of 'tar', nicotine and carbon monoxide yields of Australian cigarettes)
19.4.5 Education, communication, training and public awareness (Article 12)
Under Article 12 of the WHO FCTC, Parties shall adopt and implement effective measures to promote public awareness, access to information, and broad access to educational and public awareness programmes on various aspects of tobacco, including health risks, benefits of cessation, the tobacco industry, and the adverse health, economic, and environmental consequences of tobacco. Parties also undertake to promote training and awareness among various professional and community workers and decision makers; and to promote awareness and participation of various agencies and organizations in developing and implementing tobacco control programs.
The Australian Federal Government, state and territory governments and non-governmental organisations exercise responsibility for education, communication, training and public awareness campaigns. Programs include anti-smoking mass media campaigns, and targeted campaigns directed at closing the gap in Indigenous health outcomes.1 For more information on tobacco-control campaigns in Australia, see Chapter 14, Section 14.3.
19.4.6 Tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (Article 13)
Under Article 13 of the WHO FCTC, Parties undertake to implement appropriate legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measures to adopt a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship within five years of entry into force of the Convention. If a comprehensive ban is not possible due to a Party’s constitution or constitutional principles, a Party must undertake restrictions as far as possible under their constitution, including restrictions on radio, television, print media, and other media as appropriate within a period of five years.
The Australian Federal Government and states and territories have implemented comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Australia has enacted laws at a national level banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship under the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 (TAP Act).9 For more information on Australia’s national legislation, see Chapter 11, Section 11.3 Commonwealth (national) legislation. Most states and territories have bans on the sale of tobacco products to persons under 18, bans on the sale of tobacco products from a temporary outlet, and bans on the sale of cigarettes in packages of less than 20 cigarettes. Variations exist across states and territories, for example, in relation to retail display bans.1, 6 For more information on state and territory legislation implementing tobacco advertising and promotion restrictions, see Chapter 11, Section 11.4 State and territory legislation.
The introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products is one of the means by which the Commonwealth Government implements its obligations under Article 13 of the WHO FCTC, as outlined in section 19.10 below.
19.4.7 Tobacco dependence and cessation (Article 14)
Under Article 14 of the WHO FCTC, Parties shall take effective measures to promote cessation of tobacco use and adequate treatment for tobacco dependence, including by designing and implementing effective cessation programmes, including diagnosis and treatment of tobacco dependence and cessation counselling in their health and education systems, establishing tobacco dependence programs within health care facilities and rehabilitation programmes, and facilitating accessibility and affordability of treatment for tobacco dependence.
In the implementation of its Article 14 obligations, the Australian Federal Government, state and territory governments and non-governmental organisations promote tobacco cessation and tobacco dependence treatment through Quitline services, and support and subsidies for nicotine replacement products, in addition to the education, communication, training and public awareness measures outlined in relation to Article 12.1 For information on the Quitline in Australia, see Chapter 7, Section 7.14.1 The Quitline in Australia, and for more information on smoking cessation, see Chapter 7 Smoking Cessation.