Cunningham Lecture 2013: Plain packaging of tobacco products

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Simon Chapman AO PhD FASSA Hon FFPH (UK), is Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney. He has published 466 articles in peer reviewed journals and 17 books and major reports.  His Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control: Making Smoking History was published by Blackwell (Oxford) in 2007 and his co-authored Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: What men should know before being tested for prostate cancer by Sydney University Press in 2010. He was a key member of the Coalition for Gun Control which won the 1996 Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Community Human Rights Award for its advocacy for gun law reform after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. In 1997 he won the World Health Organisation’s World No Tobacco Day Medal and in 2003 he was voted by his international peers to be awarded the American Cancer Society’s Luther Terry Award for outstanding individual leadership in tobacco control. In 2008 he won the NSW Premier’s Cancer Researcher of the Year medal and the Public Health Association of Australia’s Sidney Sax medal. He was deputy editor (1992-1997) then editor (1998-2008) of the British Medical Journal’s, Tobacco Control and is now its editor emeritus. In 2013 he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia for his contributions to public health.

Tobacco control is widely considered the contemporary poster child of successful public health policy and practice in reducing major chronic diseases. In December 2012, the Australian government became the first nation to prescribe the entire packaging for any consumer product when it introduced plain packaging law for tobacco products. The bill attracted sustained opposition from the tobacco industry and its acolytes, a High Court challenge, a World Trade Organisation action and another claimed bilateral trade treaty violation between Australia and Hong Kong. Many millions of dollars were spent unsuccessfully by the tobacco industry in trying to defeat the bill. This lecture will consider both proximal and distal factors in the success of the bill.  It will also consider the role of public health advocacy, and specifically the extent to which the case highlights the importance of active engagement by researchers in the policy advocacy process.

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