How’s that plain packaging policy working? II

There is a steady flow of evidence to support the view that Nicola Roxon’s signature policy – plain packaging on tobacco products – has failed.

This morning Christian Kerr at the Australian has the latest revelation:

Eighteen months after the previous government’s laws came into force, new data, obtained by The Australian, shows that tobacco sales volumes increased by 59 million “sticks”, or individual cigarettes or their roll-your-own equivalents last year.

The 0.3 per cent increase, though modest, goes against a 15.6 per slide in tobacco sales over the previous four years — and undermines claims by then health minister Nicola Roxon that Australia would introduce the “world’s toughest anti-smoking laws”.

So what’s happening?

Plain packaging laws, which came into force in December 2012, have instead boosted demand for cheaper cigarettes, with reports of a more than 50 per cent rise in the market for lower cost cigarettes.

The research by industry monitor InfoView, which shows a rise in the market share of cheaper cigarettes from 32 per cent to 37 per cent last year, is backed up by retailers, consumer marketers and the industry, with cigarette maker Philip Morris saying its ­information showed no drop in demand.

Australasian Association of Convenience Stores chief executive Jeff Rogut said sales by his members grew by $120 million or 5.4 per cent last year. “Talking to members, one of the most common refrains they get from people coming into stores is, ‘What are your cheapest smokes?’,” he said.

Consumers have substituted from higher priced branded cigarettes to lower priced unbranded cigarettes and consistent with an effective fall in price are consuming more. Unsurprising once you understand that demand curves slope down.

Of course it isn’t just the industry that is providing evidence of increased smoking rates.

The federal budget forecasts tobacco excise to continue rising from $7.85 billion in 2013-14 to $10.98bn in 2017-18, with excise increases scheduled for the next three Septembers.

Last year’s NSW population health survey, released last month, showed 16.4 per cent of all adults in the state smoke, up from 14.7 per cent in 2011, while in South Australia rates were up from 16.7 per cent to 19.4 per cent over the past year.

For a policy that had the intent of reducing smoking rates, this is a disaster. It comes back to the fact that the previous government had a form above substance approach to policy. Be seen to be doing the right thing, even if it isn’t. The other thing is that it would never take advice, even when it didn’t know what it was doing.

The question is whether the Abbott government will repeal the plain-packaging laws? I hope so, but I suspect not. They don’t have the will to take tough decisions.

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62 Responses to How’s that plain packaging policy working? II

  1. C.L.

    The extremist anti-smoking Cancer Council sprang into action on the radio airwaves this morning, dismissing this latest report as having been compiled by the tobacco companies.

  2. C.L.

    The question is whether the Abbott government will repeal the plain-packaging laws?

    Abbott? Repeal? LOL.

  3. johanna

    Abbott is a fitness freak and health puritan. He supported the plain packaging laws, and will be a sucker for similar proposals about other products and activities he disapproves of.

  4. whyisitso

    The question is whether the Abbott government will repeal the plain-packaging laws? I hope so, but I suspect not. They don’t have the will senate votes to take tough decisions.

    The sooner we get back to the natural order of things in Canberra – a Christine Milne leadership supported by Bill Shorten the sooner Davidson will be satisfied.

    It IS a waste of time having a Coalition government – let’s hasten back onto the path of destroying this country.

  5. Tom

    (Reuters) – An Australian law forcing cigarette companies to sell their products in plain packets is about to be tested in court, diplomats at the World Trade Organization said on Friday, ending more than two years of procedural delay.

    Cuba, Ukraine, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic have brought the action against Australia, the first country to ban the colorful logos used to sell tobacco brands around the world, a law aimed at reducing addiction and disease.

    Opponents of the law, who say it is heavy-handed and an invitation to counterfeiters, had hoped other countries would hold off from following Australia’s example pending a WTO verdict, but Britain, Ireland and New Zealand have already begun drafting similar legislation.

    Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab olive-colored packets that look more like military or prison issue, with brands printed in small standardized fonts.

    The five countries challenging it say the legislation is a barrier to trade and restricts intellectual property.

    “My country fully shares Australia’s health objectives. However, its plain packaging measure is failing to have the desired health effects of reducing smoking prevalence and remains detrimental to our premium tobacco industry,” Katrina Naut, the Dominican Republic’s foreign trade chief, said in a statement.

    “By banning all design elements from tobacco packaging, plain packaging precludes our producers from differentiating their premium products from competitors in the marketplace.”

    After two years of slow-going procedure, Australia and its five challengers have agreed the conditions that will allow the case to get under way within weeks and for a ruling to be made potentially as soon as November.

    In the key step to get the process started, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo will appoint three panelists by May 5 to judge the dispute, according to transcripts of statements at the body’s dispute settlement body on Friday.

    As well as its huge importance for the global tobacco industry, the case could have implications in other sectors, as some public health advocates see potential for plain packaging laws to extend into areas such as alcohol and unhealthy foods.

  6. Gab

    Why would Abbott even think of repealing this dumb legislation? He supported it.

  7. C.L.

    WIIS believes passionately in Liberal Party socialism.

    As long as it’s not Labor Party socialism.

  8. John Comnenus

    How dumb are the so called ‘experts’?

    Here’s what has probably happened. By going to plain packaging the authorities turned cigarettes into a commodity. Almost every commodity competes on only one issue – price. Not unsurprisingly the growth in consumption has been at the cheap end of the market. There is no way of knowing if your smoking Dunhill or Longbeach 50s, so smokers have traded down to cheaper brands ironically making them less expensive and hence slightly increasing demand. Hilarious own goal from the health Nazis.

  9. Toiling Mass

    They don’t have the will to take tough decisions.

    I am afraid they will have drawn the wrong lesson from the budget.

    Libs will look at this budget and see the furore over so few, and such meagre, measures required to restore it to health. It will make them even more timid than they are now – at least until we get a strong leader (their own party or someone elses) who can break the spell which makes people believe all cutbacks are evil.

  10. Demosthenes

    I heard on the radio that illegal tobacco consumption also increased.

  11. candy

    Ads on TV might be more effective, if they use real sufferers of emphysema and lung cancer?
    The point is to decrease smoking levels, not make a political point.

  12. Boy on a bike

    My observation is that the gaspers at work have switched to unfiltered rollies. I’m sure that is a great health outcome.

  13. Gab

    Ads on TV might be more effective, if they use real sufferers of emphysema and lung cancer?

    Been done to death. Messages on packs explaining how quitting improves one’s health would be a better idea. For example,

    20 minutes
    Your blood pressure, pulse rate and the temperature of your hands and feet have returned to normal.
    8 hours
    Remaining nicotine in your bloodstream has fallen to 6.25% of normal peak daily levels, a 93.75% reduction.

    12 hours
    Your blood oxygen level has increased to normal. Carbon monoxide levels have dropped to normal.

    48 hours
    Damaged nerve endings have started to regrow and your sense of smell and taste are beginning to return to normal. Cessation anger and irritability will have peaked.

    Or some such.

    Accentuate the positives of quitting.

  14. Zaphod

    There is no way of knowing if your [sic] smoking Dunhill or Longbeach 50s…

    So tobacco is like Duff Beer ?

  15. Zaphod

    24 hours
    And after a couple of showers, you no longer smell like an ashtray.

  16. candy

    Accentuate the positives of quitting.

    Perhaps a mirror on the back of the pack that shows the smoker’s yellow teeth and more wrinkles etc?

  17. .

    C.L.
    #1335648, posted on June 6, 2014 at 9:58 am
    WIIS believes passionately in Liberal Party socialism.

    As long as it’s not Labor Party socialism.

    …and anyone who disagrees with Turnbullism is a freakin’ communist!!!1

  18. Infidel Tiger

    The question is whether the Abbott government will repeal the plain-packaging laws?

    I’ll bet one testicle and a lung that the nanny state loving, shandy drinker raises punitive taxes on them again. He’ll only be punishing his daughter.

  19. .

    Anti smoking campaigns are built on half truths.

    Esteemed health Ph D, John Hassenkam (dead soul) used to point out urban pollution was just as bad as smoking durries.

    If you really want to be healthy, quit and move to a country area that doesn’t use log fires for heat.

    Quitting smoking and living in the highly urban inner city might be useless save for your athletic performance improving.

    Health benefits of smoking:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_benefits_of_smoking

  20. .

    I’ve found research saying that the risk factors of smoking don’t appear at very low levels of smoking. Such research is hard to find amongst the hysterical, childish, dishonest, paternalistic, fanatical and condescending propaganda.

  21. .

    The figures from the ABS show that total consumption of tobacco and cigarettes in the March quarter 2014 is the lowest ever recorded – and this with the series starting in 1959. This is extraordinary. It is a Great Depression for tobacco sales.

    People are being taxed into illegal, untaxed tobacco supplies.

    This blithering idiot doesn’t realise the black economy exists. This is a polluted mind that has spent too long in bureaucracy.

    He is not of the real world and his forecasts are based on bureaucratic nonsense.

  22. Rob MW

    Well that worked a treat.

    Plain packaging of syringes, bongs, alcohol, guns, cars, knives, wet floors, banana skins, and Indonesian built fishing boats should work just as well.

  23. Craig Mc

    How dumb are the so called ‘experts’?

    You seem to be under the impression “experts” are all about achieving some public good, rather than justifying the existence of their personal empires.

  24. John Comnenus

    Craig Mc,

    no it was an ironic comment. Experts are rarely as expert as they think they are.

  25. incoherent rambler

    some public health advocates see potential for plain packaging laws to extend into areas such as alcohol and unhealthy foods

    The precedent has been set.

    In unmarked straight sided, clear bottles and plain silver cans only:
    Coca-cola, Dimple, Bundi Rum, Tequila, Solo, Bourbon, Lemonade, Chardonnay, Ginger Beer, Vodka.

    As the vision dims, drinking will become very dangerous.

  26. Ren Hoek

    More non-smokers die than smokers every day.
    Stupidity is more dangerous to your health.

  27. whyisitso

    WIIS believes passionately in Liberal Party socialism. As long as it’s not Labor Party socialism.

    On the contrary, its you and Davidson who’ve become socialists in recent times.

    …and anyone who disagrees with Turnbullism is a freakin’ communist!!!1

    Once again it’s Davidson who’s the Turnbull defender, not me. I see a note reference after this item but without a link.

  28. Alfonso

    Yawn, it’s all pretend.
    You seriously want to stop most smoking put $80 tax on 25 and Bob’s your uncle.
    The homemade supply is trivial.

  29. Rabz

    It comes back to the fact that the previous government had a form above substance approach to policy was almost indescribably idiotic and incompetent and everything they touched turned to shit.

    Let’s not gild the lily here, thanks Perfesser.

  30. incoherent rambler

    Instead can we have labelling on alcohol and tobacco products that clearly displays the amount of tax/excise that you are contributing when you purchase the product?

  31. Dr Faustus

    Experts are rarely as expert as they think they are.

    They are also far narrower in their focus that they think they are. For example, here is a contending expert view on the impact of increased tobacco tax - increased organised crime - that does not feature in the public health policy prism.

  32. Craig Mc

    no it was an ironic comment. Experts are rarely as expert as they think they are.

    Indeed. You can’t spell analyst without anal.

  33. H B Bear

    Nanny Roxon is quite the poster girl for Emilys List. Another petty, interfering, bureaucratic, completely ineffective law. Like Roxon herself, a dead-weight loss to society.

    History will show the KRudd-Gillard_KRudd cabinets to be some of the most talentless ideologues ever to have filled that room.

  34. manalive

    For a policy that had the intent of reducing smoking rates, this is a disaster …

    I thought it was about the moral vanity of the Green-Labor coalition preening themselves.
    In that, it probably succeeded.

  35. Dr.Sir Fred Lenin

    Joy to the Mafia and other crims.abolish tobacco and recreate Prohibition days.them to lmprove things abolish alcoholic drinks ,maccas ,coke ,the list is endless,
    When the government goes broke the mafia and alp unions can make a takeover bid,just imagine secret speakeasys selling burgers and coke,plantations of tobacco in the bush ,be good for National invetiveness.just imagine the lurks,and the lawtrade making a fortune polishing turds.

  36. Jonesy

    Actually, the policy’s working pretty well! Unlike the fact checkers at the Oz:

    http://thekouk.com/blog/the-australian-s-claim-on-tobacco-go-up-in-smoke.html#.U5D7g8a26f0

  37. Ren Hoek

    You know it’s wrong if Lenin is right.

  38. .

    Alfonso
    #1335721, posted on June 6, 2014 at 10:54 am
    Yawn, it’s all pretend.
    You seriously want to stop most smoking put $80 tax on 25 and Bob’s your uncle.
    The homemade supply is trivial.

    Strike a light it won’t be trivial after that!

  39. Cynicmonster

    Experts are rarely as expert as they think they are.

    Expert – someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know absolutely everything about nothing.

  40. Andrew

    Does anyone have a link that lists the MPs who voted for the Plain Packaging bill?

  41. calli

    H B, now this is what I call a ‘poster girl’. Such charm, such elegance…straight out of the gulag.

  42. It’s very easy to invoke the buzz-phrase “nanny-state” over this issue; but remember that a government must do something about a habit that claims and ruins so many lives every year. They can’t just ignore it. There has to be some degree of regulation.
    If no government had tried to regulate smoking, we’d still be having Cancer Ladies prowling around shopping centres and smokers stinking up restaurants, planes and pubs.
    So plain-packaging didn’t work, and the boys at the Tobacco Institute of Australia and the journalists they have in their pockets are rejoicing. This is nothing to celebrate.

  43. incoherent rambler

    DBlack, go back to the Drum.

  44. Infidel Tiger

    It’s very easy to invoke the buzz-phrase “nanny-state” over this issue; but remember that a government must do something about a habit that claims and ruins so many lives every year.

    No they must not.

    Sitting on the couch reading books is bad for your health, should that be criminalized?

    They can’t just ignore it. There has to be some degree of regulation.

    Fuck off, sicko.

  45. Infidel Tiger

    H B, now this is what I call a ‘poster girl’. Such charm, such elegance…straight out of the gulag.

    You put that repulsive bonce on a pack of smokes and kiddies will switch to heroin to soothe the pain… which her husband could no doubt supply.

  46. Infidel Tiger

    If government wants to send a market signal to people to quit smoking, make them pay for their own healthcare.

    Crazy talk I know.

  47. DBlack, go back to the Drum.

    I’ve never been at the Drum. Have you ever seen me post there?

  48. Eddystone

    calli
    #1335950, posted on June 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm
    H B, now this is what I call a ‘poster girl’. Such charm, such elegance…straight out of the gulag.

    Here she displays her full wattage grace and charm.

    And here.

  49. .

    It’s very easy to invoke the buzz-phrase “nanny-state” over this issue; but remember that a government must do something about a habit that claims and ruins so many lives every year.

    Nonsense.

  50. entropy

    Meddlers always lose. They also never learn, and just move on to the next thing to simply repeat the same mistake. Because they are meddlers. It’s what they do.
    Time to repeal the legislation.

    Why not get rid of the stupid pictures too at the same time we let them once again brand their own product. The only purpose of those pics as far as I can see is to encourage rebellious teenagers to become grey gaspers just to display their edginess.

    What would be good though is a label on the packet that spells out exactly how much excise there is on a single one of the death sticks within. That would cause a stir.

  51. entropy

    The reason it is nonsense Mr Black is that even though the experiment has been shown not to work, you still want to believe it will. One day.

  52. red breast

    Speaking of The Drum; thats a brand of tobacco. I submit that the ABC should put all their website in plain packaging and it should not be on display where anyone can see it.

  53. Aristogeiton

    red breast
    #1336119, posted on June 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm
    Speaking of The Drum; thats a brand of tobacco. I submit that the ABC should put all their website in plain packaging and it should not be on display where anyone can see it.

    It should come with a warning that it causes stupefaction, intellectual sloth, and is a leading cause of the mental illness of leftism.

  54. nerblnob

    The trend against taking up smoking had already started long before the state started trying to regulate behaviour. If you don’t remember that, you’re either too young or have blanked it out for partisan reasons.

    If you think “nanny state” is no more than a buzz phrase then you must be blissfully unaware of life outside the playpen.

    Even those in favour of meddling have to admit that the massive and expensive state interventions have made only tiny differences to the trends, if at all.

  55. nerblnob

    Speaking of the gruesome pictures I was talking with a group of pals last night.

    We’re all in our 60s, smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers. One was saying how working in a pathologist’s lab had put him off smoking many years ago. But that now people are not easily shocked by the sight of tarred lungs as they’ve been desensitised by the ubiquitous scare pictures.

    Not that any of us oldies can see them on packs without our reading glasses. They’re just a blur of pretty colours.

  56. stackja

    nerblnob
    #1337589, posted on June 7, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    cig ads?
    or
    kill off the worker before can claim pension?

  57. Mark Riley

    Do you really think these figures are accurate? What does the Australian think it’s doing presenting industry propaganda as proper academic research? Poor journalism and reinforces that paper’s poor reputation. Think about this, if plain packaging is good for the industry then why do they want it repealed? Watching the poor industry spokesman try and justify this was pitiful.

  58. dogby

    These are the quarterly figures on household expenditure on tobacco consumption for 2012
    [from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) file 5206008, column AM]:

    March 2012: 3593
    June 2012: 3579
    September 2012: 3595
    December 2012: 3483

    Quarterly figures for 2013:
    March 2013: 3467
    June 2013: 3521
    September 2013: 3567
    December 2013: 3571

    The 2014 first quarter:
    March 2014: 3298

    Any way those numbers are examined, there has been a fall in consumption.

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