Are criminals dumb?

This is what happens when you walk into a store and act like an undercover policeman.

Objective We aimed to assess change in the availability of illicit tobacco in small mixed business retail outlets following the December 2012 introduction of plain packaging in Australia.
Methods 303 small retail outlets were visited in June and September 2012 (baseline months), and in December 2012 and February, April and July 2013. Fieldworkers requested a particular low-cost brand of cigarettes and then pressed the retailer for an ‘even cheaper’ brand. The cheapest pack of cigarettes offered was purchased and later examined to assess any divergence from prescribed Australian packaging regulations. The price paid was compared with tax liability and recommended retail price for the particular brand and pack size. In a sub-set of 179 stores, fieldworkers then asked the retailer about availability of unbranded (chop-chop) tobacco.
Results Thirteen (2.2%) of 598 packs purchased pre-plain packaging were either non-compliant with Australian health warnings and/or suspiciously priced. Four packs (1.3%) of 297 met either or both criteria in the December implementation month, and five (0.6%) of 878 did so in the three collection months following implementation. Chop-chop was offered upon enquiry on 0.6% (n=2) of 338 occasions prior to implementation, 0.6% (n=1) of 170 occasions in the December 2012 implementation month, and 0.6% (n=3) of 514 occasions postimplementation. The likelihood of a ‘positive’ response (either an offer to sell or information about where unbranded tobacco may be purchased) did not differ across preimplementation, during-implementation and postimplementation waves.
Conclusions Overall, packs judged likely to be illicit were sold in response to requests for cheapest available packs on fewer than one percent of occasions. Offers to sell unbranded tobacco were rare. No change in availability of illicit tobacco was observed following implementation of plain packaging.

The first problem with this study is the lack of a control group. Think about the fieldworkers. To get an idea as to their inate ability to track down an illegal product they should have been required to also acquire a sample of, say, marijuana or something similar.

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67 Responses to Are criminals dumb?

  1. ChrisPer

    Just hire a dozen ‘Big Issue’ sellers.

  2. C.L.

    Good Lord.

    What an embarrassment.

  3. Rabz

    This is what happens when you walk into a store and act like an undercover policeman.

    Did they record how many times they were asked “hey, are you a cop?”.

  4. rickw

    All I want to know is who paid for this rubbish? My guess is dear stupid old taxpayer.

  5. Rabz

    All I want to know is who paid for this rubbish?

    From their financial statements:

    External program funding $30,189,000 (in 2012)

    They received a similar amount in “charitable support” but this ‘research’ would have almost certainly been paid for under “program funding”. So yes, it’s the generous ol’ taxpayers, my goodness they have deep pockets.

  6. Infidel Tiger

    Good afternoon, Sir. Do you by chance know where I may procure some “Chop Chop?”

    Fuck off, narc.

  7. Mitch

    Marijuana is easy to get. Not from a cigarette retailer but generally speaking, really easy. Easier than black market tobacco I would imagine.

  8. Habib

    Most small business types, especially ones flogging hooky gear, can pick a plod, let alone some amateur academic, from 2000 metres. How much did this bollocks cost, and who paid?

    There has been success however, both sides of these mongs have created a market for gas & gaspers whereby it’s viable for the first time since the ’20s for organised crime to get into, especially darbs. The amount of homemade hooch being produced in “water purifiers” here makes the Appalchians look like Saudi Arabia.

  9. .

    Mitch: Marijuana is virtually legal wrt personal use and also cultivation in some palces

    Tobacco cops up to a two year gaol sentence and $85,000 fine if it is grown/processed/sold without a licence.

  10. H B Bear

    Tobacco cops up to a two year gaol sentence and $85,000 fine if it is grown/processed/sold without a licence.

    Yep, best to leave it to the experts. The bikies.

  11. Mitch

    Really have to wonder what really drives politicians to keep marijuana illegal when the primary beneficiaries are organised crime gangs, and plays a role in cross-subsidising other crimes, especially money laundering. And marijuana’s a lot harder to hide than ecstacy and a lot of harder drugs.

    I was at a party recently where the official policy was pills allowed, but no marijuana at all as if a raid happened marijuana was too hard to get rid of. Legalise marijauna and I’m very confident you would see a reduction in the demand for harder drugs.

  12. stackja

    Coca Cola coined the phrase!

    The term “chop chop” was coined in the mid-1890s by staff at an Australian tobacco manufacturer, W.D. & H.O. Wills Australia Limited, endeavouring to combat the illegal trade. The term comes from the production process of the illegal producers – merely chopping up the cured tobacco leaves.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chop_chop_(tobacco)#Origins_of_the_term

  13. stackja

    Do not smoke! Do not drink! Tax nightmare!

  14. .

    I was at a party recently where the official policy was pills allowed, but no marijuana at all as if a raid happened marijuana was too hard to get rid of. Legalise marijauna and I’m very confident you would see a reduction in the demand for harder drugs

    As someone who was a security gorilla, I can assure you more marijuana and ecstacy use would see a less violent nightlife across our cities.

    Do they let marijuana in at parties where there is a fire bucket?

  15. Up The Workers!

    “Are criminals dumb?”

    ARE CRIMINALS DUMB??!!

    How ELSE do you get to be President of the A.L.P. – just ask Mike Williamson next “visiting day” (if he’s not otherwise occupied picking up the soap in the prison showers for Bubba, Bruiser, Basher, Knuckles and Betty (who used to be Bruce!).

  16. Rabz

    if he’s not otherwise occupied picking up the soap in the prison showers for Bubba, Bruiser, Basher, Knuckles and Betty (who used to be Bruce!)

    Livin’ the Dream.

  17. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    Williamson, Gillard, Orkopolis, Obeid, Thompson, …

    Hmmm.

    Yep, criminals are dumb.

  18. Baldrick

    This is a paper written by academics employed by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria.

    That’s like asking the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to audit Japanese whaling data or the Labor Party to audit the books of the AWU. Gimme a break!

  19. nerblnob

    That report reads like one of those smug ABC “fact-checking” exercises

    I was at a party recently where the official policy was pills allowed

    A “party” with an “official” policy?

    FFS, hell in a handcart, going to dogs, EOTWAWKI etc.

  20. Cops are always entering my place “undercover” or in “plain clothes”. It is comical the way they think they are fooling me.

    Even without the police issue ticket-book, the handcuffs (sometimes even a glock) and that they flatly refuse to touch grog, they’d still stand out like a stiff prong in a pair of wet speedos.

    Even if they drop every last cop habit, and act like humans, they still have that fish-eyed stare that cops have. Gives ‘em away every time.

    In this case it would have been the way they asked for chop-chop that set off the radar of the shop staff.
    I.T. sends it up well @5.29:

    Good afternoon, Sir. Do you by chance know where I may procure some “Chop Chop?”

    I’ve had stupider sounding stuff put to me by cops in plain clothes who really do think they are fooling me.

    I’m offended, as should every tobacco merchant be, at the blithe default assumption that we’re dodgy.

  21. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    Habib:

    The amount of homemade hooch being produced in “water purifiers” here makes the Appalchians look like Saudi Arabia.

    Erm.

    23 litres of Coopers a-bubbling away in the fermenter as we speak.

    Next, the apple cider.

    The government can kiss my backside when it comes to tax on most booze.

    And let us not talk of a particular place outside Canberra where a certain local ethnic group is alleged to process 400 tons of fruit a year into … motor fuel. That’s it, sustainable motor fuel for Gaia. Yup, motor fuel.

    it also gets the oil stains out of concrete.

  22. Johno

    This is a paper written by academics employed by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria.

    It ain’t research, it’s propaganda.

    The Greens do a lot of that.

    Just look at the IPCC.

  23. Habib

    Since it went to the ATO, excise don’t even bother with grappa and slivovitz, let alone the assorted corn squeezins and rheumatis medicine knocked out in carports nationwide. I’m surprised there’s only been one poisoning, and no recorded explosions.

  24. Captain Bastard

    The figures might have been higher if they’d remembered to flash the badge AFTER they asked.

  25. Baldrick

    Steve at the Pub
    #1266350, posted on April 15, 2014 at 8:04 pm
    Cops are always entering my place “undercover” or in “plain clothes”. It is comical the way they think they are fooling me.

    Steve, I’m sure they are cops who enter your place because cops are the ones that enforce the Liquor Act. Under the Tobacco Act of Victoria they are Council Inspectors who would enforce the Victorian Tobacco Act. I’m sure the Victorian cops have better things to do than worry about chop chop, just like the Queensland cops aren’t worried if your lines aren’t cleaned. Best to leave those things to the professional Council inspectors. ;)

  26. C.L.

    ARE CRIMINALS DUMB??!!

    How ELSE do you get to be President of the A.L.P.?

    BLAM!

  27. It’s none of the governments business what people put into themselves.

    And I shouldn’t be forced to subsidise their medical treatment.

  28. Walter Plinge

    A complete stranger walks into your tobacconist and asks for dodgy cigarettes. Unless you’re an utter plonker of course you’re only going to offer genuine Winfields. When you’ve been seen around the shops for a few weeks and made several purchases then perhaps you might get a chance at the dodgy stuff. This investigation was on about the level of Inspector Clouseau.

  29. Walter Plinge

    I’m surprised there’s only been one poisoning, and no recorded explosions.

    Having done home distilling a few years back I know it’s almost impossible to produce methanol in anything but minute quantities. These poisonings from ‘home made alcohol’ are always the result of using industrial methanol as a quick, cheap filler.

    Explosions? Well, I was certainly aware of the dangers and took care. Like all properly controlled and managed home stills my apparatus produced 94% ethanol.

  30. Habib

    Depends on the quality of the mash or wort, the cleanliness and constiuent material of the tunn and coil etc, and the temperature and consistency. If you know what you’re doing, use quality uncontaminated grain sugars, and your gear’s free of solder, copper and burns at the right temperature, you’re pretty safe.

    Lot of work for basically a fuel additive. Even with our userous excise, booze isn’t that pricey. It’s a lot more than other places though, especially the US. Wine’s cheap, and on-line beer and spirits are pretty reasonable, and delivered- great if you’re not immediately thirsty.

  31. nerblnob

    Conducted by KPMG UK, the survey looked at the number of discarded illegal cigarette packets on the Coast.

    A sample of 300 packs last year found 6.7% were illegal – up from 0.5% in 2012.

    Now that’s a far more sensible approach than asking directly for illegal fags. Though still flawed.

  32. Big Jim

    Habib: “Wine’s cheap…”

    Sure it is. That’s why my teetotal doppelgänger drives a Bentley and wears a Rolex.

  33. john constantine

    asking Q and A audiences if they vote torie or the right way will discover the truth too, hey
    ?.

    asking a leftie in an election poll booth if she has already voted today or not, reveals the truth?.

    black market imports of durries copying australian packaging-not hard to print up a box,or re-use a legal pack.Could be attractive and edgy to be seen with a law breaking pack in some places.

    saw a local seller of chop chop sitting by the roadside a while back,as the enforcement agency pulled his ute to bits looking for evidence. he was happily watching their diligence, as professionals don’t ever have the money and the product in the same place.

  34. Sir Fred Lenin

    I see Blewitt has been charged over the “good ole slush fund” biz,Wilson is obviously next,he was the instigator ,but it would never have worked without the help of a “Shifty Criminal Lawperson”. Woder if those Wankers at those International Bludgejobs,employ Disbarred Lawperson? Especially if she has been found guilty of assisting in theft ,and receiving proceeds of theft. Kev will be delighted ! The multi millionaire saint of the Wukkas might get HIS untidy nayshuns job ? Bastards should be in a Bloody Gulag on Strict Regime.

  35. .

    I’ve had hooch from a still, made from…white sugar.

    It was great but had a disgusting aftertaste. We cut it with honey and no water and mixed it with lemonade on ice and a dash of brown muscato. The end results were delicious and spectacular.

  36. nerblnob

    There’s a reason why most people prefer to pay more for reliable branded beer, wine and spirits than drink hooch and homebrew.

    That reason becomes less compelling the more expensive you make legal drinks.

    Same applies to tobacco I suppose. The price is more of an issue than packet design, I would think.

  37. rebel with cause

    So according to the description they asked for a pack of Horizons (I assume this is still the cheapest brand?) by name and then said they wanted something cheaper. FFS – if you ask for Horizons by name you know how much they damn well cost. Acting surprised about it would make the retailer suspicious.

    It doesn’t sound like any of the people involved in this research either smoked or ever sold cigs.

  38. ChrisPer

    My local gunshop has the misfortune of being nearest to Police Headquarters. Every time someone needs quota they come in with an old rifle in a burlap sack and go ‘Psst – wanna buy some good gear cheap, no paperwork?’

  39. Williamson, Gillard, Orkopolis, Obeid, Thompson, …

    Yes, but only Fatty O’Barrel gets a ‘gate’ suffix, for a bottle of wine, no less. Oh, ok, I think Shagger got one for a while but the misproportionate response by the media is vomitous.

  40. What a waste of tax money.
    I’d be taking the costs out of their next years budget.
    No. No, I wouldn’t. Just sack the bloody lot and make them get proper jobs.

  41. There’s a reason why most people prefer to pay more for reliable branded beer, wine and spirits than drink hooch and homebrew.

    As someone who knows from experience (surprise, surprise), its not quality per se that’s the issue with home brew, but quality control. I keep dreaming of a time when a great brew is followed by another great brew, but alas…

  42. Uber

    News just in: Red Barry is gone as NSW Premier. Hooray!

  43. hammy

    Are criminals dumb?

    How dumb are Liberal politicians?

  44. ChrisPer

    Barry? For betraying the agreement with S&FP?
    May you rot in ignominy.

  45. Toiling Mass

    O/T (or not)

    Apparently Barry O’Farrell has quit.

  46. Toiling Mass

    Woops – missed that other people had already covered that. Man, do I feel embarrassed.

  47. hammy

    Askin, Greiner, O’Farrell. What a great party they are! Not.

  48. Gab

    Happens to the best of us, Toiling, so you’re in good company :)

  49. There is a Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band song for every occasion on the Cat. This time it’s ‘Rhinocratic Oaths’:

    With a geranium behind each ear and his face painted with gay cabalistic symbols, six foot eight, seventeen stone police seargent Geoff Bull looked jolly convincing as he sweated and grunted through a vigorous Twist routine at the Frag-a-Go-go Beer Kellar.
    His hot serge trousers flapped wildly over his enormous plastic sandals as he jumped and jumped and gyrated towards a long-haired man.
    “Uh, excuse me, man, I have reason to believe you can turn me on.”
    He leered suggestively.
    As if by magic dozens of truncheons appeared and mercilessly thrashed him.
    Poor Geoff, what a turnout for the books.

  50. TBear

    The Bear is a Sydney-based regular smoker and has not purchased one packet of `legal’ ciggies in more than 5 years.

    Put that data in your fancy Nanny-State-Survey-Pipe and smoke it …

  51. .

    hammy
    #1266810, posted on April 16, 2014 at 10:59 am
    Are criminals dumb?

    How dumb are Liberal politicians?

    Wait until your little mate Neville Wran pops his clogs. His personal impropriety, dealings with named criminal organisations and associations with high level, contract violent criminals cannot be dismissed with a smug reference to a dumb acceptance of an old bottle of plonk.

    When he dies, he will make the Wood Royal Commission, Painters and Dockers and current ALP-unions scandals look like child’s play.

  52. .

    TBear
    #1266917, posted on April 16, 2014 at 12:15 pm
    The Bear is a Sydney-based regular smoker and has not purchased one packet of `legal’ ciggies in more than 5 years.

    Well done sir. I’ll have a Havana Jewel in your honour this eve.

  53. Up The Workers!

    The Leadership of the A.L.P. have called a press conference to point out how astonishingly corrupt and dishonourable the Liberal Party is, after the surprise resignation of former N.S.W. Premier, Barry O’Farrell.

    All the senior figures in the A.L.P. Leadership Team were there – the suspected rapist, the homicidal narcissist, the bent corrupt sacked ex-solicitor currently being investigated by the Victoria Police Major Fraud Squad, the convicted heroin-dealer’s missus, her pre-decessor the recidivist brothel-crawler, and apologies were sent by the Former Federal President of the Party, Mike Williamson, but his Prison Warden for some inexplicable reason wouldn’t let him attend.

  54. All the senior figures in the A.L.P. Leadership Team were there – the suspected rapist, the homicidal narcissist, the bent corrupt sacked ex-solicitor currently being investigated by the Victoria Police Major Fraud Squad, the convicted heroin-dealer’s missus, her pre-decessor the recidivist brothel-crawler, and apologies were sent by the Former Federal President of the Party, Mike Williamson, but his Prison Warden for some inexplicable reason wouldn’t let him attend.

    Noice. Quite a rogues’ gallery.

  55. Some campy chap is on ABCNews24 whining, about every five seconds, of influence-peddling. He must be a Green, I said, as soon as I heard his effeminate shrieks.
    Ah, I just learned he’s John Kaye.

  56. .

    Ask him about the influence of nutty anti semites. He will shriek more hysterically if asked that, as he did after the last NSW election.

  57. Up The Workers!

    Deadman, Is John Kaye any relation to Danny Kaye?

    Kaye by name…

  58. johanna

    Hardly, UTW. For one thing, Danny Kaye (born Kaminsky) was Jewish, and was awarded the Presidential Medalof Freedom by Ronald Reagan.

  59. Beer Whisperer reveals why breweries have an entire chemistry department, who do nothing but work on how to keep the brew consistent from one batch to the next:

    As someone who knows from experience (surprise, surprise), its not quality per se that’s the issue with home brew, but quality control. I keep dreaming of a time when a great brew is followed by another great brew, but alas…

    Indeed, Beer Whisperer. Anyone who has ever worked in the Maintenance dept of a brewery will readily tell you that no matter what they are doing, if they get a call from “chemistry” they are to drop whatever it is they are doing, and proceed directly to “chemistry” and do their bidding.

  60. James

    This is a serious question. Is chop chop significantly distributed by tobacco retailers? I’d always imagined it was mainly sourced through “dealers” much like marijuana.

    I remain astonished that you could tax a legal product to such an extent as to create a massive black market.

  61. .

    I remain astonished that you could tax a legal product to such an extent as to create a massive black market.

    Do you realise how high the excise is?

    It is about 36 cents per stick and about 460 AUD per kg of tobacco.

    Back in 1999, a bale at the farm got got 850 AUD, after excise was applied, the value of the bale was 29k AUD.

    Set your face to stun…

  62. .

    In short…the price of legal ciggies, whatever it is, 63% of the final price – is tax.

  63. johanna

    In my part of the world, chop-chop is distributed informally, and the counterfeit cigs in packets are available both through retailers and on the street.

    Or so they tell me.

  64. Dan

    rebel with cause
    #1266716, posted on April 16, 2014 at 9:11 am
    So according to the description they asked for a pack of Horizons (I assume this is still the cheapest brand?) by name and then said they wanted something cheaper. FFS – if you ask for Horizons by name you know how much they damn well cost. Acting surprised about it would make the retailer suspicious.

    It doesn’t sound like any of the people involved in this research either smoked or ever sold cigs.

    Well, exactly. If your smoking Horizon, chop chop will blow your head off. Better off asking for a pack of Gauloises unfiltered.

    Bond St fags are cheap $12.5/pack of 20. And when the price goes up across the board, within a week, Bond st go down to the previous price. Terrible smoke though

  65. .

    Pall Mall are terrible. Cheap though.

    If I need cheap I buy tobacco buy the pack. Borkum Riff. Which Americans assure me is filth, but I have little choice in the People’s Republic of ‘straya. I smoke cigars but for convenience cut them off at small ones like Havana Jewels – which is like 2-3 ciggies at $4-5 a pop.

    I have been assured by tobacconists that plain packaging is screwing supply on non standard (i.e non ciggies) smokes.

  66. nerblnob

    I just sent a UK-based engineer to Australia for a training job.
    First message he sent on arrival was “I think the Australian Gestapo don’t want anyone in Oz smoking or drinking”

    Now he has discovered (through conversation, I presume) that’s it’s cheaper to get a session in a brothel than a carton of fags.

    Like James said, “I remain astonished that you could tax a legal product to such an extent as to create a massive black market.”

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