The Politics of Tobacco Control in
Australia: International Template?
In Australia, smoking is a health issue. There is almost universal
acceptance that smoking causes disease, and a very effective anti-
smoking movement has a willing audience to which it appears
credible and reasonable. In contrast, the industry suffers from
negative perceptions and cynical audiences. The industry and our
smokers are isolated. The isolation is exacerbated by significant
legal exposure. Australia is a template for anti-smoking groups in
other countries. Recently, a prominent anti-smoking activist,
Nigel Gray, said that the battles all had been won; that the tobacco
industry had been defeated and was a spent force. Our goal is to
prove that he is wrong and to destroy the template.
—David Rees Davits (CEO, Philip Morris) to Ann Daw
(director of planning), November 30, 19931
For much of their early history, the Australian tobacco industry and forces opposed to it drew largely on British and American precedents. Only from the late 1960s could Australia be said to provide a source of innovation—arguably, a template—for tobacco control. In this chapter I examine how the situation described in the memorandum quoted above came about, focusing particularly on the sources of policy initiative and innovation.
Australia’s record in reducing tobacco consumption is good by most measures. From 1945 to 1998 the prevalence of smoking among males over the age of fourteen in Australia fell from 72 percent to 22 percent. Although relatively little of this change took place after 1991, the percentage of