Monday 11 January 2016

The Relentless Failure Of Plain Packaging

Seemingly not listening to Debs Arnott's hilarious claim that "The “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false", we have routinely seen other strands of 'public health' calling for plain packaging for anything from kids' treats, through fast food, alcohol and fizzy drinks, e-cigs natch, and even onto fossil fuels. That's how very 'unique' tobacco is, you see.

So it's not surprising that someone has decided to study the effect of plain packaging on one of these other threatened products.
A new study by researchers in Europe has concluded that plain packaging for food products may reduce an individual’s purchase intent but could actually lead to increased consumption once a product is purchased or offered. These findings suggest that measures to reduce unhealthy food intake by introducing plain packaging could have “adverse effects”, with the researchers suggesting it is “critical” for further studies to be conducted to see if such regimes would be a viable or ill-advised strategy to combat obesity.
The researchers appear to be quite startled by this conclusion.
“At first sight, the current results sharply differ from those obtained in the smoking prevention literature, with exposure to plain pack of cigarettes reducing product appreciation and desire to smoke, and actual smoking overall. What is effective for preventing smoking may not necessarily be as effective for reducing food consumption."
Erm, it's not quite true that plain packs has been "effective for preventing smoking", now is it?

The researchers above are correct that highly-biased tobacco control industry execs found exposure to plain packs affected "perceived quality and satisfaction of cigarettes" and even hinted that smokers might consider quitting, however as the NHS pointed out at the time.
Importantly, it cannot tell us whether a change in packaging achieves the desired outcomes of an increase in actual quit rates or preventing people from starting smoking. 
Which is kinda important.
While people smoking the plain pack cigarettes were significantly more likely to have thought about quitting and place higher priority on quitting, their intention to quit smoking remained unchanged.
And that's quite significant because - two and a half years on - there has actually been an increase in tobacco consumption in Australia, as illustrated in the short two minute film below.

Now, I know what you're thinking. The food study involved plain white packs with no gory pictures, but they don't work on tobacco so that's a bit of a red herring. And besides, isn't it all about the children? Surely if they are less inclined to buy sweets they won't eat as many. Well, yes, that's exactly what Aussie tobacco controllers thought about plain packaging smokes, and look how that turned out.

So it seems the food study mirrors exactly the path of pitiful failure of plain packaging for tobacco. It looks like it promises so much, but eventually delivers absolutely bugger all except disappointment for bansturbators and a whole load of costly regulations and disruption for businesses.

Still, without a wild goose chase on which to expend their time and our taxes, state-funded vested interests would be sitting around flicking rubber bands and waiting for the inevitable cut to their unnecessary grants, now wouldn't they?

Plain packaging for any number of products offers a prime incentive for 'public health' tax-spongers to drag their loathsome carcasses around TV and radio spewing out fanciful theories and junk science for quite some time to come.

Who really cares if it actually works?

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