This study examines how health advocates and the Australian government responded to international commercial pressure during the implementation of tobacco standardised packaging (SP) as a measure to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Relevant government and NGO documents, and media items were reviewed. Policymakers and health advocates (n = 19) in Australia were interviewed. In 2009, Australia's National Health Taskforce recommended SP, which the Australian government announced in April 2010. In response, tobacco companies threatened the government with litigation in both domestic and international courts, claiming that SP would violate their investment and intellectual property rights. However, these legal threats were unsuccessful in forcing the government to withdrawal the SP proposal. Tobacco companies legally challenged SP, but as of February 2018 failed with each legal challenge. The political success of enacting and implementing SP against international commercial pressure was supported by legal preparation and support, and a whole-of-government approach. The Australian SP case illustrates how, against international commercial opposition, governments can build and maintain political and official support to enact and implement progressive public health measures to reduce NCDs.
Keywords: Global health; health policy; international trade; tobacco control; tobacco industry.