The Tobacco Industry’s Challenges to Standardised Packaging: A Comparative Analysis of Issue Framing in Public Relations Campaigns in Four Countries (2018)

Authors: Ross MacKenzie et al.


Tobacco industry public relations campaigns have played a key role in challenges to standardised cigarette packaging. This paper presents a comparative analysis of industry campaigns in Australia and the United Kingdom, which have implemented standardised packaging legislation; Canada, where policy has been adopted but not yet implemented; and the Netherlands, which has considered, but not enacted regulation. Campaigns were identified via Google searches, tobacco industry websites, media coverage, government submissions and previous research; analysis focused on issue framing and supporting evidence. Public relations campaigns in all case study countries drew on similar frames – the illicit trade in tobacco products, the encroaching ‘nanny state’, lack of evidence for the effectiveness of standardised packaging, a slippery slope of regulation, and inherent threats to intellectual property rights. These claims were supported by industry research, front groups and commissioned reports by accountancy firms, but were not with verifiable research. Independent evidence that contradicted industry positions was overlooked. Similarities in structure and content of public relations campaigns in countries that have enacted or considered regulation points to a strategic co-ordinated approach by cigarette manufacturers. Countries considering standardised packaging policy can expect powerful opposition from the tobacco industry. Tobacco control communities and policy makers can learn from previous experience, and share best practise in countering industry arguments.

Read more: Health Policy, Elsevier