Authors: Mitchell & Casben
Title: For Debate – Trade Law and Alcohol Regulation: What Role for a Global Alcohol Marketing Code?
Journal: Addiction, 2016, 10.1111/add.13606
Background and aims: Following calls for restrictions and bans on alcohol advertising, and in light of the tobacco industry’s challenge to Australia’s tobacco plain packaging measure, a tobacco control measure finding support in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, this paper considers what role, if any, an international alcohol marketing code might have in preventing or reducing the risk of challenges to domestic alcohol marketing restrictions under trade rules.
Methods: Narrative review of international trade and health instruments and international trade court judgements regarding alcohol products and marketing restrictions.
Results: The experience of European trade courts in the litigation of similar measures, suggests that World Trade Organisation rules have sufficient flexibility to support the implementation of alcohol marketing restrictions. However, the experience also highlights the possibility that public health measures have disproportionate and unjustifiable trade effects and that the ability of a public health measure to withstand a challenge under trade rules will turn on its particular design and implementation.
Conclusions: International public health instruments are not immune to trade law challenges. Close collaboration between health policy makers, trade officials and lawyers, from as early as the research stage in the development of a measure to ensure a robust evidence base, will ensure the best chance of regulatory survival for an international marketing code.