Simon Chapman quotes a paper on Tobacco Control:
A study was conducted from April 2012 (six ?months before plain packaging) to March 2014 (15? months after), by the Cancer Council Victoria, using national telephone samples of 8,679 smokers.
It found for those buying factory-made cigarettes bought in Australia, there were no significant increases in the use of so-called “cheap whites” (0.1%), international brands costing 20% or more below the recommended retail price (0.2%) or packs purchased from informal sellers (0.1%). The prevalence of any use of unbranded illicit tobacco (“chop chop”) remained around 3% throughout the study period. Unsurprisingly, smokers didn’t ditch legal packs for illegal supplies.
That sounds definitive. Yet the paper by Michelle Scollo, Meghan Zacher, Kerri Coomber and Melanie Wakefield has somewhat more subdued conclusions.
While unable to quantify the total extent of use of illicit manufactured cigarettes, in this large national survey we found no evidence in Australia of increased use of two categories of manufactured cigarettes likely to be contraband, no increase in purchase from informal sellers and no increased use of unbranded illicit ‘chop-chop’ tobacco.
Then there are the limitations of the study – that the authors admit! – that need to be considered:
- It excludes people who don’t speak English,
- It excludes any cigarettes bought overseas or online,
- The study suffers from observation bias:
Since we limited the analysis to categories of contraband cigarettes for which we could obtain reliable objective data, our study was unable to assess changes in use of any top-selling Australian cigarettes that had somehow got into the illicit market. Also since we were unable to apply stable price-based criteria to assess likely illicit status, we would have failed to detect cigarettes that have been counterfeited to appear like common Australian brands.
So the very thing they are looking for was excluded from the study. It is like the magician telling the audience there is no rabbit in his hat and then expecting applause when he fails to produce the very rabbit that isn’t there.