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Justifications, Evidence and Public Health Laws

Justifications, Evidence and Public Health Laws: Case studies of standardised tobacco packaging and minimum pricing of alcohol

Public initiatives to promote wider health benefits can have a significant economic impact on powerful corporations. Standardised tobacco packaging, alcohol pricing, and sugar warnings are key examples. Increased regulation on health grounds has led to a number of legal challenges at national, European and international levels, and, in turn, considerable scrutiny of the alleged benefits of public health policies.  These tensions raise a set of interesting and complex questions about public health policy evaluation, clustered around–

  1. information-gathering;
  2. evaluation, including prospective evaluation;
  3. different ways of approaching 'trade-offs';
  4. different ways of approaching evidence or more accurately 'good enough evidence’ so that a policy is (sufficiently) in the public interest; and
  5. different responses to uncertainty and risk (empirical and legal).    

This project examines the complexities in developing and defending public health laws, in particular the evidential challenges to support standardised tobacco packaging and minimum pricing of alcohol.

This project is an interdisciplinary initiative across the University of Cambridge. It is led by Dr Stephanie Palmer and Dr Kathy Liddell (Faculty of Law). Collaborators include Professor Theresa Marteau (Institute for Public Health), the Public Health Network (co-ordinated by Paula Frampton) and the Public Policy Strategic Research Initiative (co-ordinated by Charlotte Sausman).