Does better regulation depoliticise policymaking? A case study of standardised packaging of tobacco

J Hatchard, G Fooks, A B C Gilmore

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The absence of standardised packaging of tobacco in the Queen’s Speech was headline news in May 2013. The government was condemned by tobacco control advocates for being weak on public health and for being influenced by pro-tobacco lobbyists such as Lynton Crosby, despite what has been described as ‘overwhelming evidence’ favouring standardised packaging. Meanwhile, the pro-tobacco lobby itself welcomed the decision not to push ahead with standardised packaging (although no formal decision has yet been announced) as a victory for evidence-based policy making.
The first account suggests the possibility that tobacco companies had direct political influence over the Government’s tobacco control policy. This would contravene a key commitment within the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Article 5.3. In contrast, the second account implies appropriate adherence to the policy process by policy-makers, in line with Better Regulation norms and procedures. Better Regulation partially depoliticises policymaking, by institutionalising evidence-based, cost-benefit impact assessments for all government policies. However, by also requiring stakeholder consultation, Better Regulation opens an alternative access point for influence in the policy process, providing the tobacco lobby with a legitimate opportunity to both provide and contest evidence, neatly side-stepping the constraints of the FCTC. Research shows that tobacco companies played a key role in embedding Better Regulation tools.
In this paper, the authors use documentary sources to unpack the political relations underlying both accounts of the policy silence on standardised tobacco packaging. We focus, in particular, on how features of Better Regulation, such as impact assessment and stakeholder consultation, provide an alternative arena for traditional political conflicts and the tobacco lobby with a new set of political levers to influence policy outcomes. And we consider what we can learn from this about the interaction, overlap and competition between Public Health and Better Regulation governance regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 18 Sept 2013
EventPolicy and Politics Second Conference 2013 - Bristol, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 17 Sept 201318 Sept 2013


ConferencePolicy and Politics Second Conference 2013
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom


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