Youth smoking increased after plain packaging

Tobacco Control has a paper by Sally Dunlop, Donna Perez, Anita Dessaix and David Currow that has some damning results and implications for the plain packaging policy. You get a very different impression reading just the abstract than you do from reading the paper.

The authors report on a series of telephone interviews over the period 2010 – 2013 aimed at 12 – 24 year olds. Look at the summary statistics in their table 1.

Dunlop table 1

Let me pull out some important numbers.

Dunlop table 1 a

Between 2012 (plain packaging was introduced in December 2012) and 2013 (the first full year of plain packaging) the number of youth smokers rose from 12% to 16% in the sample. Now there is some complication – the 2013 survey contacted both landlines and mobiles whereas previously only landline contact had occurred.

But don’t take my word for it – here are the authors of the paper (emphasis added):

In 2013, different patterns emerged for the dual-frame and landline samples: current smoking increased back to 16% in the dual-frame sample, and remained at 12% in the landline sample.

Also note that the number of people reporting friends smoking increased and the number of people living in households with smokers increased.

Then let’s look at behavioural responses.

Dunlop figure 2

First thing to notice – what is missing, again, is actual quit rates. Of course, given that they found that current smokers increased in 2013 compared to 2012 it is hardly surprising that they didn’t report that figure. Also not the gap between “Thought about quitting” and “Tried to quit”. Massive drop. If I had the data I would like to explore the overlap between “Tried to quit” and “Smoked less”. I suspect they are largely the same group of people. What is most, however, is the “No impact” column. To be sure it has declined over time – yet remains at 48 per cent. If we combine that with the “Smoke more” column the some 54 per cent of youth smokers did not respond at all to the policy and youth smoking rates overall increased.

Despite documenting a comprehensive failure of the policy the authors conclude:

This study adds to the evidence by demonstrating a considerable positive response to plain packaging among Australian adolescents and young adults, including quitting-related behaviours and thoughts, behavioural and emotional indicators of social denormalisation and high levels of support for the policy. …
Countries considering introducing plain packaging legislation should be encouraged by these findings.

Quite astonishing that those conclusions are drawn and that the social denormalisation of young people is considered to be a “good thing”.

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12 Responses to Youth smoking increased after plain packaging

  1. Rafe Champion

    Did von Mises say something about the failure of state intervention?
    And when did he say it?

  2. Rafe Champion

    A very appropriate Liberty Quote.

    “Good” government can only be limited from doing “good”.

    — Geoffrey Brennan and James Buchanan

  3. kc

    You miss one very important consideration. It is fairly common knowledge within the halls of power, not only in “big Tobacco” but also “Big booze” and part of their marketing strategy that …..THE BEST WAY TO GET AN ADOLECENT TO DO SOMETHING, IS TELL THEM NOT TOO. It is why they fund the quit campaigns, the anti binge drinking campaigns and all the lefty lovey nanny state programs. It is not because they really care about reducing consumption, it is in fact the exact opposite. It is because they know it will INCREASE uptake amongst the under 25’s. Why do kids take up smoking? because “we” tell them not too. If you wanted to get a kid to “not smoke” have an ad campaign telling them
    “If you smoke, you will stink, have no money and won’t get any sex and your friends will think your a dickhead plus the Government will make lots of tax from you”…then you will see smoking rates falling in kids. Try asking big tobacco to fund that one =)

  4. MACK

    ABC current affairs journalists use the same technique – write the conclusions first, find the data and information to fit, and ignore anything contrary.

  5. Some History

    Despite documenting a comprehensive failure of the policy the authors conclude…… Quite astonishing that those conclusions are drawn and that the social denormalisation of young people is considered to be a “good thing”.

    Although quite astonishing, Public Health journals, particularly as pertaining to tobacco, are loaded with this sort of trash. Conclusions do not follow from the results. Sinc, you’ve even seen instances where conclusions are drawn that research didn’t even address.

    And the conclusions aren’t haphazard. They are always antismoking, aligned to the agenda. It’s more than “astonishing”. In scholarly terms, it’s serious fraudulent conduct. Yet for the Tobacco Control propaganda machine, it’s standard operating procedure.

    Further, one would be quite justified in assuming that this appalling conduct will never be highlighted in the PH literature. This research will not attract any critical scrutiny whatsoever. Rather, on the basis of its [erroneous] “positive” conclusion, this research will become part of the “mounting evidence” (just short of “the science is settled”) for the success of PP.

    Bear in mind that these lying totalitarian twonks promote themselves as the “righteous ones” battling the “evil” tobacco industry.

  6. Snoopy

    Greenies won’t countenance replacing coal with nuclear because they are not driven by concern for the environment, they are driven by hatred of Big Energy.

    Nannies won’t countenance replacing cigarettes with vaping because they are not driven by concern for smokers’ health, they are driven by hatred of Big Tobacco.

  7. Diogenes

    From anecdotal evidence, ie the number of kids I catch smoking in the scrub behind my classroom, I would agree with the report conclusions.

    A suggestion for a research paper would be to survey schools. Most schools have computerised their discipline systems, and the records are available for several years.

  8. Some History

    A suggestion for a research paper would be to survey schools. Most schools have computerised their discipline systems, and the records are available for several years.

    It won’t make any difference. It doesn’t matter what the data suggests. Tobacco Control (prohibitionism) research always arrives at antismoking conclusions.

  9. Dorothy

    Perhaps Sinclair you could have a word in the shelllike of Chris Smith fron 2GB, during the topic of a sugar tax that he was vigorously promoting he stated that the plain packaging of cigarettes had been very successful in stopping smoking.

  10. Snoopy

    If plain packaging works then the government can do away with tobacco excise, correct?

  11. Paridell

    I think the report refers to social denormalisation of smoking among young people, not to social denormalisation of young people themselves.

    In other words, they remain cool, but they no longer see smoking as cool.

  12. Indigo

    Nicotine is better than alcohol, cocaine, ice, marijuana and all the drug so popular with young and not so young. The more they demonise tobacco, the more other drug usage increases.

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