The Fairfax media is claiming:
The federal Treasury has entered the debate over cigarette sales, publishing previously secret information that shows sales falling since the introduction of graphic health warnings and plain packaging.
The Treasury collects data on sales per stick in order to levy tobacco excise, but has until now withheld it from publication to protect commercially sensitive information.
Added to the Health Department’s website quietly last week amid debate over the effectiveness of plain packaging, the Treasury data shows 3.4 per cent fewer cigarettes were sold last year than 2012. Plain packaging became mandatory on December 1, 2012.
Read the article very carefully. Note what is missing.
- No Treasury official named.
- No Treasury official quoted.
- No Treasury document cited.
Tobacco sales data are not publicly available.
More importantly, it still claims:
The Commonwealth Treasury has further advised that tobacco clearances (including excise and customs duty) fell by 3.4% in 2013 relative to 2012 when tobacco plain packaging was introduced.
All that talk about data per stick in the Fairfax media is a (ahem) smoke screen. This how Treasury described their data in a 2010 email (emphasis added):
Excise and customs clearances are different from consumption data, as the taxing point is not the point of final sale …
Then there is this:
The Treasury data suggests that, adjusted for population growth of 1.7 per cent, the number of sticks sold per person slid about 5 per cent between 2012 and last year.
To the extent that the immigration program tends to select non-smokers and new-borns tend not to smoke at all, I’m not surprised that the per capita figure would indicate a fall in smoking. I hope the journalist contrived that statistic and not Treasury.