British American Tobacco Australia - Response to the draft National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018 - 25 June 2012
Having dealt with the substantive issues raised in the draft NTS, there are a number of inaccurate statements made in the draft NTS that need to be addressed to ensure an informed and balanced debate can occur in this important area of public health.
Tobacco marketingThe draft NTS states that “tobacco advertising and marketing efforts by the tobacco industry seek to increase sale and consumption of tobacco by three mechanisms. Firstly, by advertising and promotion efforts which seek to recruit new smokers by encouraging children or young adults to experiment with tobacco products and progress to regular use. Secondly, by reducing motivation of current smokers to quit. And thirdly, by encouraging relapse and promoting former smokers to resume smoking.”59
This statement is inaccurate and no real proof is provided to substantiate this claim.
For the record, BATA does not “advertise” its products, it does not ‘encourage children’ to smoke’, nor does it ‘seek to increase tobacco consumption’.
Tobacco advertising in Australia has been illegal for 20 years, since the passing of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992.
Indeed there are a number of regulations that have been in place for close to 40 years to prevent the activity as described by the Strategy above, namely;
- 1973 - Direct cigarette advertising on radio and television begins to be phased out
- 1990 - Cigarette advertising banned in locally produced newspapers and magazines.
- 1995 - Most forms of tobacco sponsorship phased out
- 1996 - Billboards, outdoor and illuminated signs advertising cigarettes banned.
- 2010 – Retail display bans commence
MeasurementThe draft NTS uses several inconsistent measures when it refers to smoking prevalence in Australia. For example, on page 5, there is reference to:
- 15.1 per cent of people 14 years or over smoking daily
- 45 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 15 years smoking daily; and
- a target of cutting the adult daily smoking rate to 10 per cent or less by 2018.
To have three different measures for the measurement of smoking in the space of two paragraphs is highly unsatisfactory and apt to not provide an accurate and consistent means for measuring the effectiveness of the activities outlined in the draft NTS. Put simply, you will not be comparing “apples with apples” if you adopt inconsistent measurements. BATA submits that one measurement should be used consistently throughout the draft NTS and to measure its outcomes.
It is also important not to lose sight of the illicit tobacco market when it comes to measuring smoking prevalence. As noted above, the illicit tobacco market in Australia is already sizeable and it could be erroneous to assume that reductions in the volume of tobacco sold by the legitimate industry will always equate to an overall reduction in consumption or prevalence.
Regulation of the contents of tobacco products and product disclosureAt page 35 of the draft NTS it is claimed that:
“Article 9 of the WHO FCTC requires Parties to adopt and implement measures for testing and measuring the contents and emissions of tobacco products, and to regulate these contents and emissions measures in accordance with the FCTC Guidelines”.
This misrepresents Article 9.
The Article is in two parts, the first requires the COP to propose guidelines for the testing and measuring of the contents and emissions of tobacco products and for the regulation of these contents and emissions.
This reversal of phases is also contrary to Article 9 itself. As the rationale for the COP1 decision states “The testing and measuring of the contents and emissions of tobacco products serve as a basis for the regulation”.
The result is that Parties cannot be required to adopt measures for testing and measuring the contents and emissions and for regulating and disclosing them until the COP provides the appropriate required guidelines.
MentholThe draft NTS also claims at page 36 that:
“additives such as menthol numb the throat so the smoker cannot feel the smoke's aggravating effects.”
This conclusion is not supported by sound scientific evidence.
It has been argued that menthol anaesthetises the mouth and throat, enabling smokers to take bigger puffs and inhale more deeply. It has been suggested that menthol may thus increase nicotine intake and exposure to smoke toxicants, causing heightened smoking dependence and an increase in the health risks associated with smoking. However, the weight of available scientific evidence indicates that none of these allegations related to menthol is correct. As confirmed by scientific studies and reports of public health agencies, smokers of menthol cigarettes neither inhale more toxicants nor face greater risk of tobacco-related diseases than do smokers of non-menthol cigarettes. In addition, no substantial evidence indicates that menthol in cigarettes heightens dependence on smoking or leads to increased smoking prevalence.
The report submitted to the US FDA by the Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) accepts there are important gaps in the understanding of menthol cigarettes and public health that should be addressed with further research, particularly in the area of menthol cigarette availability and youth smoking.
As reported in the Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Newly Emerging Health Risks (SCENIHR) entitled Addictiveness and Attractiveness of Tobacco Additives (originally commissioned by the European Commission and published in November 2010), direct comparisons of the number of puffs taken by smokers from mentholated and non-mentholated cigarettes have been made in seven studies. No difference between mentholated and non-mentholated cigarettes was reported in four studies while a reduced puff number was associated with mentholated products in three studies.
As further highlighted by SCENIHR, puff volume was investigated in six studies. Three of these studies actually showed a reduction in puff volume when smoking mentholated cigarettes. Two studies did not find any effect of mentholation on puff volume and only one study showed an increase in puff volume.
DisclosureAlso at page 36 of the draft NTS, it is stated that in respect of the current Voluntary Agreement relating to the ingredients of cigarettes that the “reports are posted on the website of the Department of Health and Ageing. Research on this system of voluntary disclosure found that the current arrangements were not effective in informing consumers and health experts.”
However, it should also be noted that one of the key outcomes in the (IPSOS) report that is posted on the DoHA website was that "it is unlikely that the health of Australians will be directly promoted and protected through disclosing tobacco product information to the public". So contrary to the implication that the current disclosure arrangements are not effective because they need updating and enhancing, the conclusion of the IPSOS authors is that the practice of disclosing tobacco product information per se is not effective in informing consumers.
The IPSOS report identifies concerns that the data provided appears to be confusing to the public and that most tobacco control stakeholders and members of the public have not, and do not intend to, access the information. There is no evidence that reporting data to governments has been used to improve public health.
We support the reporting of the ingredients used in tobacco products to the Government and the public. The publication of ingredient information should provide both regulators and adult consumers with accurate information whilst protecting commercially confidential formulations that are proprietary to tobacco companies and their suppliers.
One way forward would be to require this via regulation rather than a voluntary agreement. This would result in comprehensive ingredients information from all tobacco manufacturers ensuring a level playing-field.