Monday 13 January 2014

The Pitiful Search For Plain Packaging Evidence Fails Again

It's all getting desperate Down Under.

Tobacco controllers and anti-smokers are going garrity on Twitter about this new, undisputed 'proof' that plain packaging works!
Conclusions: There has been a sustained increase in calls to the Quitline after the introduction of tobacco plain packaging.
So how many of these people actually did quit? You know, how are the prevalence figures looking one year and three months on?

Well, Crikey gives us brand new info from Australia ... or, more precisely, a lack of it.
A global study out today has found that after decades of declining, Australia’s rate of smoking has plateaued, and even increased slightly among women. There are almost 3 million smokers in Australia and between them they puff on 21 billion — yes, billion — cigarettes a year. 
That’s the most recent data available, and it goes up to the end of 2012. As to whether the world’s first laws mandating the plain packaging of cigarettes have worked (they started in December 2012), those who have the data won’t release it. It’s a public policy secret.
That's very interesting, isn't it?

You'd think, wouldn't you, that if plain packaging had helped decrease smoking prevalence that Australia's Department of Health and Ageing would be screaming it from the rooftops instead of hiding the stats.

For the record, it seems Aussies are giving up less and less the more dictatorial anti-tobacco bullies become.
The big drop in people smoking is a medium-term success story, but since 2009 the rate of smoking in Australia has levelled off. This graph from the report shows the rate of change is now approaching zero:

The report, from The Journal of the American Medical Association detailing trends in 187 countries, specifies Australia's percentage decline in prevalence as 1.9% per year since 1980 but - as Crikey states above - the significant declines were before tobacco control embarked on the bullying and barrel-scraping of recent years, after which the effect has disappeared entirely.

And, since Google is our friend, we can see that Australia's population increased by 1.8% in 2009, 1.3% in 2010, 1.2% in 2011 and 1.6% in 2012 - from 21.78 million citizens in 2009 to 22.68 million in 2012. So, if the percentage prevalence figures are no longer decreasing, this means that smoker numbers in Australia are actually now increasing in recent years.

Could this be why the Aussie government are so coy about releasing their assessment of how plain packaging has 'worked'? Vanishing percentage decreases in prevalence and increased numbers of tobacco users is hardly a proud boast to other countries - like ours - who are looking Down Under for evidence of a ground-breaking policy, now is it?

Of course, this will simply spur on the Aussie tobacco control industry to call for more absurd regulations, while conveniently ignoring previous Quixotic global failures of denormalisation via daft and incompetent regulations.

No matter the cognitive dissonance, though, all this does kinda make the Aussie government's drive to "by 2018, reduce the national smoking rate to 10 per cent of the population" [pdf] - that is, to reduce it by 43% in four years - funnier than anything you'll ever see on Live at the Apollo.

Hopefully, our government will ditch their usual blinkers and look properly at the evidence from Australia. Plain packs is quite clearly not working or we'd have heard more about it than a shonky study on what people are thinking about doing - rather than something they are actually doing.

Still nothing anyone could call convincing evidence then, eh Sir Cyril?

NB: And note, yet again, that a policy lobbied for on the basis that it was vital to 'save children' has shifted sideways into one about forcing smokers to quit. The Quitline study which has energised the bovine on Twitter today doesn't mention children once; nor kids or youth. And the only mention of the word young is via the surname of the lead author.


Rursus said...

Young has forged the cigarette price axis?


Australian Goverment had introduced a staged 12.5 percent rise from Dec. 1 2012.

They get away with this?

This is lying!

Dick_Puddlecote said...

I think it was 12.5% from Dec 2013 with others yearly for three years in September. They do like those taxes, as Crikey pointed out.

Anto said...

Some more info on the Quitline bit: "Statistical modelling to screen out the impact of these factors found
plain packaging triggered a 78 per cent jump in weekly calls to Quitline
NSW from 363 in the week before plain packaging began on October 1,
2012, to 651 four weeks later. The effect lasted for about 10 months,
during which calls gradually decreased to roughly the same levels before
the new packs hit the market."

Well, it was all worth it then, wasn't it?

Frank J said...

No, no, no! This is proof absolute to tobacco control. I can see them prodding their rat like noses into every MP's office as I write.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Failure is success; inconclusive is compelling, black is white, night is day. Just yer average tobacco control training day. ;)