Australia: Funding Think Tanks and Hiring Independent Experts

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Funding Think Tanks

Article from the Institute of Public Affairs website

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), one of Australia’s leading right wing think tanks, has long been a strong opponent of tobacco control and has put forward arguments similar to those of the tobacco industry (click on image to the right). In a 2014 news article the IPA was described as “a right-wing think thank that has received considerable funding from Big Tobacco over the past 10 years.”1
On the day the Australian Government announced its new policies, the IPA’s Tim Wilson took part in several national and local broadcast interviews. He supported the industry claim that the new law violated tobacco companies’ intellectual property rights and said that taxpayers would have to compensate the firms for the loss of their trademarks.
Talking on ABC Radio 612 Brisbane’s ‘Mornings with Stacy Milner programme’, he said that “under the constitution and Australia’s international obligation” the government may have to pay “compensation up to $3 billion a year to tobacco companies”.2
But while arguing the tobacco companies’ position, the IPA did not disclose receipt of any funding from the tobacco industry. In April 2002, the IPA’s Don D’Cruz wrote an article for The Australian newspaper’s opinion page, disclosing that the Institute “receives support from tobacco companies”.3 When askedin 2010, the IPA refused to say if it was still accepting industry money. ABC’s Media Watch programme commented that the IPA’s “ubiquitous spruiking (sic) about cigarette packaging was… a marriage made in media heaven.”2
Wilson made similar points about trademarks, intellectual property and compensation in a submission to the Australian Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry into plain packaging. He wrote: “With annual retail sales for… tobacco products at $10 billion per annum it is possible that the removal of trademarks would result in taxpayers being required to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars, and potentially billions”.4 The submission contained no information about how it was funded.

Countering the Industry’s Intellectual Property Argument

For information on how and why the industry constructed the intellectual property argument, see:

Hiring Independent Experts

Tobacco companies have hired many top independent experts and consultancies to base their claims and support their arguments with printed evidence.
For instance, the industry commissioned Deloitte, LECG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and LALIVE to do half a dozen of studies in the 18 months up to June 2011. Philip Morris presented the results on their website dedicated exclusively to plain packaging, (no longer live), along with responses to the various stakeholders involved in the plain packaging proposals:

Promoting Misleading Evidence Post-Implementation

To mark the second anniversary of the introduction of plain packaging in Australia on 1 December 2014, Philip Morris and BAT widely disseminated what was described as an “independent analysis of the plain packaging legislation”.5 The report, entitled The plain truth about plain packaging: An econometric analysis of the Australian 2011 Tobacco Plain Packaging Act, was sent to media outlets by Philip Morris as independent proof that “there is no evidence that plain packaging for cigarettes is working.”1
Despite being repeatedly promoted by the industry as independent research, one of the report’s authors, Professor Sinclair Davidson, who has been outspoken against plain packaging,6 is a senior fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.7
Simultaneously, BAT disseminated data by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), insisting that it showed the rate of smoking in 12-17 year-olds had increased by 32% from 2.5% in 2010 to 3.4% in 2013.1 Although The Sydney Morning Herald quoted AIHW’s head of tobacco and other drugs unit reiterating that it was made clear in the report that the sample size was too small and therefore the results were “not statistically significant”, the industry and its associates have continued to promote it as evidence.
The same data set used by the industry to reach these conclusions actually showed a statistically significant decline in daily adult smokers, from 15.9% in 2010 to 13.3% in 2013.
On the third anniversary of the legislation, the most recent data on adult smoking prevalence showed that 12.8% of Australians over the age of 14 smoked on a daily basis. This is the lowest on record. 8

For more tobacco industry funded reports on the effects of plain packaging post implementation in Australia see the Cancer Council Victoria’s Plain Facts website. The Cancer Council offers critiques of many of these reports.

TobaccoTactics Resources

TCRG Research

Visit Peer-Reviewed Research for a full list of our journal articles of tobacco industry influence on health policy.

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  1. abcM. Hawthorne, V. Desloires, Big Tobacco distributes report bullying plain packaging laws, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 November 2014, accessed December 2014
  2. abABC, “Mediawatch: Smoking Out The Spin”, 10 May 2010, accessed 7 June 2011
  3. Don D’Cruz, “Give smokers some respect”, The Australian, 15 April 2002, accessed 7 June 2011
  4. Tim Wilson, Governing in ignorance: Australian governments legislating, without understanding, intellectual property, Institute for Public Affairs, May 2010, accessed 8 June 2011
  5. Philip Morris International, Plain packaging: The “Scream Test” theory debunked, Just The Facts website, 1 December 2014, accessed December 2014
  6. S. Davidson, How’s that plain packaging policy working? II,Catallaxy Files website, 6 June 2014, accessed December 2014
  7. Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), People and Associates: Sinclair Davidson,IPA website, accessed December 2014
  8. S.Chapman, The slow-burn, devastating impact of plain packs, Smoke signals: plain speaking on public health. The Conversation, 3 December 2015, accessed December 2015