It was authored by researchers from Imperial College London, Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Crete, with one of them also affiliated to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health, and was published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association (EPHA). A who's who of global authorities, right there, which is perhaps why we've seen not a whisper from the tobacco control industry about it - their one trick of throwing smears and ad hominems about the authors or assumed funding sources simply doesn't work in this instance, so they instead stay silent and pretend it doesn't exist.
Snowdon has highlighted the main fact-finding question in the study which was asked in personal interviews with a total of 4,442 current and former smokers aged 15-39 from all 27 EU member states as at 2012.
Respondents were allowed to select up to three among the following response options: ‘your friends smoked’; ‘your parents smoked’; ‘you liked the packaging of the cigarettes (or other tobacco products)’; ‘you liked the taste or smell of tobacco’; ‘you liked menthol cigarettes’; ‘you liked cigarettes with a specific sweet, fruity or spicy flavour’; and ‘cigarettes were affordable’. Respondents who indicated that they started smoking because their friends smoked were classified as having initiated smoking under the domain of ‘peer influence’ and those who mentioned that they started smoking because their parents smoked were classified as under the domain of ‘parental influence’. All other responses were grouped together as ‘tobacco product features’, as the numbers of respondents who indicated each one as an influence were small.You'll note that of the seven options from which to choose, the five which referred to "design and marketing features" of tobacco had to be lumped together because so very few smokers said they were a factor in why they began smoking. The option "you saw someone smoking in a park and instantly wanted to go out and buy 20 Marlboro" didn't even make their drawing board during study design, it seems.
The conclusion proves that tobacco control has
No significant association between design and marketing features of tobacco products and an early initiation of regular smoking was observed (OR = 1.04; 95%CI 0.83–1.31).By "early initiation", they mean starting smoking before the age of 18. Yet in recent years we have seen tobacco display bans, for the children; a proposed ban on menthol in the EU TPD for the children; bans on flavourings in the US for the children; and plain packaging in the UK, erm, for the children. Despite children not being seduced by any of these features.
Hmm, perhaps packaging is indeed designed to protect and grow market share - just as in any other industry - amongst adult smokers who choose to smoke, as the tobacco industry has always insisted. Fancy that!
It's almost like the vast and lucrative anti-smoking industry is not really about the children - or health - but instead about the salaries of tobacco controllers who are running out of valid campaigns to keep the grant money rolling in, isn't it?
Now, just cast your minds back to the arguments being made in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) challenge to plain packaging.
Unnecessary obstacles to trade can result when (i) a regulation is more restrictive than necessary to achieve a given policy objective, or (ii) when it does not fulfil a legitimate objective. A regulation is more restrictive than necessary when the objective pursued can be achieved through alternative measures which have less trade-restricting effects, taking account of the risks non-fulfilment of the objective would create.Well, considering the entire point of plain packaging is to stop "early initiation" of smoking amongst children, I'd say a study - conducted by Imperial College, Harvard, the CDC and EPHA - concluding that packaging, even bundled up with other options, had no measurable effect in initiating smoking amongst 4,000+ young people from 27 EU member states, will be welcomed by countries who claim, quite rightly, that it is an unnecessary obstacle to trade and that there are "alternative measures which have less trade-restricting effects".
Let's just hope their lawyers have picked up on it.