Flexibilities in WTO Law to Support Tobacco Control Regulation

19 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2013

See all articles by Tania Voon

Tania Voon

University of Melbourne - Law School

Date Written: January 15, 2013


The tobacco industry continues to invoke international trade law as an obstacle to increasing controls on tobacco products. With the 2012 World Trade Organization ("WTO") decision in US – Clove Cigarettes, the potential friction between international trade law and tobacco regulation has come to the fore. In that case, the Appellate Body found in part against the United States’ flavored cigarette ban. Combined with the ongoing WTO dispute concerning Australia’s mandatory plain tobacco packaging, governments might begin to fear that the WTO agreements represent an insurmountable barrier to ambitious tobacco control measures. However, the WTO’s various agreements relevant to tobacco control measures contain ample flexibility to accommodate health objectives. These flexibilities are found in explicit exceptions and other statements in the WTO agreements, as well as the interpretation of WTO provisions by Panels and the Appellate Body. Tobacco control measures that are non-discriminatory and supported by strong evidence of their contribution to health objectives are particularly likely to withstand a WTO challenge.

Keywords: WTO, tobacco, discrimination, evidence, international trade

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Voon, Tania, Flexibilities in WTO Law to Support Tobacco Control Regulation (January 15, 2013). American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 39, No. 2-3, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2283740

Tania Voon (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

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