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CEO statement on British American Tobacco's decision not to appeal VCAT ruling

Friday 28 October, 2016

Cancer Council Victoria is pleased to learn that the lawyer acting on behalf of British American Tobacco will not be appealing the recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruling preventing access to data files containing information provided by thousands of Australian school children.

An application to access confidential data about children was made on behalf of British American Tobacco (BAT) in 2014, which Cancer Council Victoria strongly opposed. VCAT ruled last month that five of six documents sought by BAT should not be released.

The Cancer Council stands by its decision to resist the attempts of BAT to access sensitive information collected from children.

Protecting the integrity of the data is of utmost importance to us as an organisation.

The Australian Secondary Schools Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey is an important piece of scientific public health research that is subject to stringent approval processes from ethics committees, education authorities and schools. Handing over such sensitive data would have seriously undermined the credibility of the ASSAD survey and may jeopardise Cancer Council's ability to continue surveying students in future years, potentially ending our ability to understand smoking behaviour in Australian adolescents.

Given we know that about 80 per cent of smokers start before the age of 18, the release of such sensitive information could have provided valuable marketing intelligence that the tobacco industry would not be allowed to gather on its own. Such information could have informed targeted pricing and marketing strategies designed to attract new customers.

We are pleased that this matter has been finally put to rest, and that we can continue to devote time to life-saving research, support and prevention programs.

We are appreciative of the support we have received from many individuals, research and health bodies and political leaders, including the Victorian State Government.