Tobacco Control in the Asia-Pacific

QUT IP and Innovation Law Research Program, 19 September 2019

QUT Faculty of Law Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Program

Thursday, 19 September 2019

5:30pm to 7:30pm

Z1064, Gibson Room, Level 10, Z Block

QUT Gardens Point Campus


This event is a research workshop focusing upon tobacco control in the Asia-Pacific. The World Health Organization has highlighted that the region of South-East Asia has high levels of smoking:

The 11 countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor Leste — comprising the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR) are inhabited by 1.536 billion people (in 2000) comprising about 25.35% of the world population. In regard to economic developmental level, the countries have also some parity. One half of them are developing countries; while the other half of countries fall into the category of the least developing countries. In regard to tobacco consumption, SEAR has some unique problems. The people in the region are used to both smoke and smokeless tobacco consumption. Four countries of the region — India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand — are among the top 20 tobacco-producing countries in the world.

The research workshop will consider what Australia’s neighbours could learn from Australia’s pioneering tobacco control measures (such as advertising bans; graphic health warnings and plain packaging of tobacco products; and taxation of tobacco). It will examine the strategies for a tobacco endgame in the Asia-Pacific.


In keeping with the spirit of Reconciliation, we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands where QUT now stands — and recognise that these have always been places of teaching and learning.

We wish to pay respect to their Elders — past, present and emerging — and acknowledge the important role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within the QUT community.


Chair: James Farrell, General Manager, Advocacy at Cancer Council Queensland


James Farrell is the General Manager, Advocacy with Cancer Council Queensland, where he leads and drives the Cancer Council’s advocacy, creating and boldly pursuing opportunities that enable our vision of a cancer free future In that role, James collaborates with Cancer Council Groups across Queensland, the community and all levels of government to advance cancer control as a proponent for all Queenslanders and all types of cancers.

From 2011 to 2015, James was a lecturer with the Deakin University School of Law, where his research interests have been shaped by his experiences working with marginalised and disadvantaged clients, and his research focuses on poverty law, social justice and human rights.

James was Director of Community Legal Centres Queensland from 2013 to 2019, and a Team Leader and later Manager/Principal Lawyer with the PILCH Homeless Persons Legal Clinic from 2007 to 2011. He has been the Treasurer of both the National Association of Community Legal Centres and Victoria’s Federation of Community Legal Centres, and a member of the StreetSmart Australia grants committee. James was a centre fellow of the Centre for Rural Regional Law & Justice, a member of the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, Griffith Law School’s Visiting Committee, QUT’s Law Advisory Board and the UQ Pro Bono Centre’s advisory board, and an editorial board member of the Alternative Law Journal. James received a Churchill Fellowship in 2014 to investigate ‘how lawyers can empower communities to achieve change’. James has also served on the boards of community legal centres, an arts organisation and other community groups. In 2014, James was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the community, particularly social welfare and legal access programs.

  1. Protecting public health: How the tobacco industry continues its death march in the Asia-Pacific
    Professor Dr Becky Freeman, the University of Sydney


It is tempting to believe that smoking is no longer a ‘real’ problem in Australia. Very few teenagers smoke anymore, public areas are largely smoke-free, and cigarettes are sold out of sight and in packages adorned only with diseased body parts and the most unappealing shade of green/brown. But, this belies a much bigger story where tobacco continues to rob vulnerable families and communities of decades of life. Tobacco is still sold on virtually every street corner, in every suburb, of every city, — even in the remotest of communities — all over Australia. Looking outwards, the Asia-Pacific region remains a haven for the tobacco industry, where cigarettes are heavily promoted, freely available, inexpensive, and viewed as socially acceptable and completely normal.

In response to its tainted reputation and the increasingly heavy hand of government regulation, the tobacco industry has attempted to recast itself as a partner in public health. These efforts are designed to weaken the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC] and drive a wedge in the highly effective alliance of public health stakeholders. The emergence of new tobacco products and ever creative ways of exploiting loopholes in existing tobacco advertising laws, requires vigilant monitoring and policy action to prevent a new generation of tobacco industry victims. Social media, paired with novel nicotine delivery devices, has created a whole new path to reaching young people — a path governments are struggling to understand, let alone regulate. A commitment to strengthening the implementation of the WHO FCTC is critical in an era of globally accessible media and a tobacco industry unwilling to play fair.


Dr Becky Freeman is Senior Lecturer with the Prevention Research Collaboration at the School of Public Health, University of Sydney. Her primary research interests include tobacco control, food advertising, and how online and social media influence public health. She is an established authority on the potential of the Internet to circumvent tobacco advertising bans.

She has prepared technical reports for the World Health Organization outlining how to monitor and regulate tobacco industry advertising and interference in tobacco control policy. Prior to pursuing her research interests in Australia, Becky worked for both government and not for profit organisations in Canada and New Zealand. All her research papers are available from and you can follow her on Twitter @DrBFreeman

2. The Plain Packaging Revolution in the Asia-Pacific
Professor Matthew Rimmer, QUT

This presentation considers the implications of Australia’s successful defence of plain packaging of tobacco products for nation states in the Asia-Pacific.

Australia has justified plain packaging of tobacco products in an array of fora. The Commonwealth defeated a challenge by Big Tobacco in the High Court of Australia — with a majority of 6–1 judges holding that plain packaging of tobacco products did not constitute an acquisition of property. An investor action brought by Philip Morris against Australia under an investment agreement between Hong Kong and Australia was dismissed as an ‘abuse of process.’ In response to complaints by Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Indonesia, the Government of Australia defended the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products in the World Trade Organization. Australia will be further safeguarding the regime in the World Trade Organization against appeals by a couple of those nations.

Emulating Australia’s example, there has been a first wave of countries — including the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, and France — which have adopted plain packaging of tobacco products. There is a need to encourage further nations to follow suit — particularly in South East Asia, where the tobacco industry has been targeting its marketing resources. There have been some promising signs of legislative action by a number of nations. Thailand has made plain packaging mandatory from the 12th September 2019. Cigarette packs are to be sold in plain packaging in Singapore from the 1 July 2020 — after the passage of legislation there. Malaysia has also been reviewing the adoption of plain packaging of tobacco products. Sri Lanka is well-advanced with plans for the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products.

In other jurisdictions, there has been concern that Big Tobacco has been subverting tobacco regulations. In India, Modi’s Government has introduced graphic health warnings — but Reuters has reported that Big Tobacco has been flouting tobacco control measures. In Pakistan, there has been concern that tobacco companies have been making political donations in order to delay the introduction of tobacco control measures.

There remain a number of jurisdictions in South East Asia, which have been hostile to tobacco control. Indonesia’s support of tobacco companies remains a great concern — both domestically and internationally. Indeed, the ABC recently described Indonesia as ‘Big Tobacco’s Disneyland’, with great health costs emanating from tobacco use and consumption. Likewise, state investment in tobacco in China may be a factor in holding back public health reforms.

There has been worry about how regional trade agreements — such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership 11 and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership — will affect the flexibilities of nation states in implementing tobacco control measures. There is a need for concerted approach amongst nations in South-East Asia in implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2003 and adopting a common approach to plain packaging of tobacco products.


Dr Matthew Rimmer is a Professor in Intellectual Property and Innovation Law at the Faculty of Law, at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). He is a leader of the QUT Intellectual Property and Innovation Law research program, and a member of the QUT Digital Media Research Centre (QUT DMRC) the QUT Australian Centre for Health Law Research (QUT ACHLR), and the QUT International Law and Global Governance Research Program (QUT IP IL).

Rimmer has published widely on copyright law and information technology, patent law and biotechnology, access to medicines, plain packaging of tobacco products, intellectual property and climate change, and Indigenous Intellectual Property. As a chief investigator of an ARC Project on intellectual property and 3D printing. Rimmer is currently working on research on intellectual property, the creative industries, and 3D printing. He is a co-editor of 3D Printing and Beyond: Intellectual Property and Regulation. He has also been researching intellectual property and trade, looking at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and the Trade in Services Agreement. His work is archived at QUT ePrints SSRN Abstracts Bepress Selected Works.

3. Proposals to End the Cigarette Epidemic in the Asia-Pacific

Associate Professor Coral Gartner, University of Queensland


An ongoing dialogue has developed in the tobacco control field about how to finally end the cigarette epidemic, sometimes referred to as the “tobacco endgame”. This has been defined as “having an explicit government intention and plan to achieve close to zero prevalence of tobacco use” and “a clearly stated government ‘end’ target date within a maximum of two decades”.

In the Asia-Pacific Region, the small country of Bhutan banned all domestic cultivation, manufacture, sale, and distribution of tobacco products in 2010. New Zealand has also featured prominently in endgame discussions with the Government adopting a Smokefree 2025 goal in 2011. A number of policy options have been proposed by New Zealand academics and tobacco control advocates to achieve this goal, such as a ‘sinking lid’ on tobacco sales.

In Singapore, Khoo and colleagues proposed banning the sale of tobacco to anyone born on or after the year 2000. A proposal that was also considered, but not adopted, by the Tasmanian parliament. A number of Australian tobacco control researchers and advocates have also proposed various pathways to a cigarette endgame. Examples include Gray’s “Three Phase Policy”, Borland’s Regulated Market Model, and Chapman’s Smoker Licensing Scheme. Some of these proposals incorporate a role for lower risk nicotine products, while others do not.

This presentation will look at the state of the cigarette epidemic in Asia-Pacific Countries, give an overview of tobacco endgame proposals in the Asia-Pacific region, discuss public support for phasing out tobacco sales and progress toward ending the cigarette epidemic in the region.


Associate Professor Gartner’s main research interest is in evaluating strategies to reduce the harm from tobacco use. She leads the Nicotine and Tobacco Regulatory Science Research Group.

Coral is also the program convenor for the Master of Environmental Health Sciences program. She has a background in environmental health and environmental epidemiology. Her previous research has included control of the dengue fever vector, Aedes aegypti and environmental risk factors for Parkinson’s disease.

Her current primary research field is in the area of tobacco control policy and interventions to reduce tobacco-related harms. Her research interests include tobacco harm reduction and monitoring community illicit drug use via wastewater analysis. Her research methods includes cohort studies, mixed method studies, epidemiological modelling and clinical trials.


Dr Becky Freeman, ‘Protecting public health: How the Tobacco Industry continues its Death March in the Asia-Pacific’, QUT IP and Innovation Law Research Program, 19 September 2019

Professor Matthew Rimmer, ‘The Plain Packaging Revolution in the Asia-Pacific’, QUT IP and Innovation Law Research Program, 19 September 2019,

Associate Professor Coral Gartner, ‘Proposals to End the Cigarette Epidemic in the Asia-Pacific’, QUT IP and Innovation Law Research Program, 19 September 2019,



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Matthew Rimmer

Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Law, QUT. #Copyright #Patent #Trademark #plainpacks #Access2meds #SDGs #Climate #IndigenousIP #trade #TPP