Tuesday 10 February 2015

Surprise! Smokers Don't Recognise Plain Packaging Yet

Two professional tobacco control industry lobby groupies have just produced one of the funniest studies in favour of plain packaging ever!
Plain tobacco packaging may reduce the likelihood of smokers seeking to obtain cigarettes by almost 10% compared to branded packs, according to research from the Universities of Exeter and Bristol.
The authors I refer to are committed anti-smoking researchers Marcus Munafo and Olivia Maynard. Their day 'job' being to support anything that the tobacco control industry is lobbying for. The last para just about admits as much.
Co-author Dr Olivia Maynard won an Economic and Social Research Council Impact Prize for her PhD research into plain packaging. Dr Maynard explained: "The current laboratory study tested whether plain packaging might influence tobacco-seeking behaviour. Our previous research in this area has been used to inform tobacco control policies both in the UK and internationally. Our hope is that high quality experimental research of this kind can make a meaningful contribution to important policy debates."
What they don't say is that they are both members of Bristol's Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG). This group's 'research' usually (in fact, always) tends to agree with whatever particular anti-smoking legislation is being promoted to politicians at any particular time.

At the moment, it's plain packaging, so this 'scientific' revelation is hardly a surprise.

Maynard received an award from her mates for an eye-tracking study which was criticised by a real eye-tracking scientist who is not part of TARG, and Munafo - who is also with the politically-motivated UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies - signposted this kind of propaganda in his video of August last year.

So, do you want to see what amazing stuff they found? OK, here you go.
In the experiments, smokers had to choose between pressing a key that might earn cigarettes or a key that might earn chocolate, and were uncertain about which key was most likely to pay off in each trial. Just before participants made each choice, they were presented with either a picture of a branded cigarette pack, a picture of a plain cigarette pack, or nothing. The results showed that whereas branded packs increased the probability of participants making the cigarette choice by 10% compared to when nothing was presented, the plain packs did not. The implication is that plain packs are less effective at prompting smokers to purchase cigarettes compared to branded packs.

Except that, at the moment, no-one has been presented with plain packs in a real life scenario. Therefore the participants will not choose cigarettes in plain packs simply because they don't recognise them as such. Familiar cigarette packs prime smoking seeking and unfamiliar plain packs don't yet? Well blow me down, what a revelation!
"[T]he plain packs promoted no more tobacco choice than when nothing was presented. These findings provide experimental support for the idea that introducing plain packaging might reduce tobacco purchasing or consumption"
No they don't. They just tell us that plain packs were not recognised as being tobacco packs at the moment. Quite understandably. When plain packs are introduced, they will be.

It's such a piss poor study that even the authors themselves seem a bit embarrassed.
However, the researchers also advise caution when interpreting these results. As Professor Marcus Munafo, a co-author of the study from the University of Bristol, explained: "The experimental procedure only modelled the ability of pack stimuli to promote a cigarette-seeking choice. In the natural environment, smoking may be governed by a whole range of factors, including tobacco withdrawal, the presence of other people smoking, time of day, and so on. It is not clear to what extent plain packaging will reduce smoking when these other factors are at play."
Of course. This is as near as you'll ever get to a tobacco controller admitting that they are producing junk science. But it's never been about the 'science', has it? It's just about getting a headline in the press, and you just know that some lazy journalists will fall for it and announce that plain packs will reduce smoking by 10%.

What this study really says is that people make choices based on what they recognise. Well, duh! So once plain packaging is ubiquitous, smokers will recognise it as such and make their choices accordingly. The assertion that plain packs are akin to displaying nothing are correct only in a lab, where nothing equals something they don't understand or recognise as anything too.

So what are the policy implications for this really? Well, it could be used to argue that there will be an instant but short-lived reduction in impulse buying of cigarettes while plain packaging is still unfamiliar. But we know from Australia that this quite simply hasn't happened.

In fact, the fact it hasn't happened has been defended by no more an authority on plain packaging as the doddery self-promoting twanger Simon Chapman himself.
But plain packaging will not instantly cut smoking rates, he cautions. "We're not expecting plain packaging to have much impact on existing smokers. It's a policy about the next generation of kids who are coming through, so we would expect to slowly starve the industry of new customers by de-normalising and de-glamorising their products."
Slowly? Err, but Munafo and Maynard's policy-led study - in a nutshell - implies that the effect will only last so long as plain packs are not associated with actual cigarettes. And if it ain't happened by now with kids in Australia - which it hasn't - it's not likely to in the future, now is it?

Good grief.


Vinny Gracchus said...

This type of false research is an embarrassment. The proponents should be prosecuted for fraud since they are manipulating results to influence public policy. Both criminal and civil prosecutions should be considered for propaganda masked as research.

Interestingly, JAMA Internal Medicine has reported that in the US the FDA (which now regulates tobacco) has suppressed knowledge of scientific fraud in clinical studies for decades. (See: http://retractionwatch.com/2015/02/09/fda-repeatedly-hidden-evidence-scientific-fraud-says-author-new-study/ and http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=2109855 )

nisakiman said...

The 'research' conducted on 'plain packaging' gets ever more risible.

Surely any politician with more than one brain cell in operation can see at a glance what utter codswallop this stuff is? I find myself stuttering with sheer disbelief that these charlatans are taken seriously by anybody, let alone our putative lawmakers.

What the.... said...

Livvy Retard and Mucous Munafo

What the.... said...

Livvy Retard on youtube. Retard begins her 3-minute blather-fest with the standard antismoking slogans and ends it referring to her “high-quality” research:

Prestigious award (natch) for Retard’s “high-quality” research:

Retard and Munafo are a good example of the nitwits that now inhabit the halls of academia (oh how the standard has plummeted). They are
“biological psychologists” in the Department of Experimental Psychology.
There’s no “psychology” involved. They are behaviorists, one of the global
scourges of the time. Their only interest is behaviour and behaviour
modification. To them all that exists is behaviour. Humans are viewed as
slightly more complex than lab rats. We can see it in some of their rambling
where smoking is viewed as no more than “tobacco-seeking behaviour” in the same way as rats in their “cheese-seeking” behaviour.

What the.... said...

“any politician with more than one brain cell”

Politicians with more than one [functioning] brain cell.
Nisakiman, you certainly are an optimist.

What the.... said...

Says it all. ASH’s Debs Arso speaking very highly of Retard’s

What the.... said...

Sir Cyril Rantler was obviously impressed with Retard’s “research”.

It’s joke time. Did you hear the one about Sir Cyril being a Doctor of Science (even honorary)?

ScottWichall said...

"PhD research into plain packaging". That short sentence shows just how devalued and debased these previously impeachable qualifications have become. Science is rapidly destroying all and any credibility that it had by allowing these fucking idiots to hold any kind of diploma. Bit like the respect that is rapidly being lost for all the chancers with god complexes in the medical profession.

truckerlyn said...

What a complete and utter joke! Perhaps she should seek a career in Stand Up!

truckerlyn said...

Perhaps the PhD was bought online?

Bandit 1 said...

Jesus. The smug, it burns. Note the eco-friendly foldable bike in pic #1, plus the standing desk... this silly bint (Dr!) clearly thinks she will live forever and never ever get any horrid illness because she lives TEH HEALTHY LIFESTILE.

And how wonderful for Dr Maynard (and the hordes of similar leeches) that our advanced economy - and the punitive levels of tax taken from the genuinely productive - means that this personal failing can be translated into 1) a well-paid and undemanding occupation and 2) unwelcome, unnecessary and destructive intrusion into the lives of the suckers who pay for everything.

Fascism depends on stupidity and an obsession with purity & physical health. These people are fascists.

Norbert Zillatron said...

"PhD research into plain packaging".
I think we should wrap her up in plain packaging with big, scary warnings. Like a liquified, rotten, oozing brain. And a mindless zombie stare. Maybe this way we could denormalize junk science and scaremongering. And prevent "The Children" from getting addicted to tobacco control.

DICK R said...

Will all the imported smuggled rolling tobacco also come in
plain packaging along with all the rest of the counterfeit fags?

Dick_Puddlecote said...

I wouldn't think so. Which is why it will be even more attractive to smokers in general. It's already cheaper, but now it will be in nicer packs too.

Maybe, as well as friends evading tax, politicians also have a few pals in the illicit tobacco trade. They couldn't have handed them a more profitable piece of legislation, after all.

truckerlyn said...

Or perhaps they are so gullible or otherwise getting some form of financial compensation to swallow hook, line and sinker what TC tell them. Or they really do live on a different planet from the rest of us!

JonathanBagley said...

Pass the sick bag.

Norbert Zillatron said...

What do you want to do with her?

Oh, sorry! I thought you wrote "Pass the sick hag."

Chalcedon said...

What was n = to in this study?

Michael J. McFadden said...

Now Dick, if this stuff wasn't true, why would someone like Maynard be making it up? Do you really think she just cares about winning some sort of dumb prize? Sheesh!


Wait a minute...

"A prize of £10,000 is awarded to the winners of each 'Outstanding' category."


Hey, where can *I* sign up to win a prize like that? I can make a study showing... showing.... hmm... most of the topics seem pretty well covered. I'll have to get imaginative.

AHH!!! I GOT IT!!!!

I will PROVE that smoking stunts growth! Everyone KNOWS that Leprechauns are all really short little guys, right? And you know WHY?


ManOmanOman.... GollyGeeWhillikersGumdrops Batman! I can smell that prize right now!


Goh Ahwei said...

Just one point from Australia. Can you stop falling for the biggest "plain packaging" lie of all.

Anyone who has seen the disease pornography on our packets will know it is anything but plain. If you saw it anywhere else outside of a medical textbook you'd know you were dealing with one sick bunch of puppies.

And given that smoking rates tend to be higher among the already marginalised and the poorer, not to mention the depressed and mentally ill, the graphics are really an assault not only on self esteem in these groups but a demonization of them as modern "lepers".

There are already suggestions for electronic registration and tagging through Health Care Cards to further monitor and restrict our access. The 21st century equivalent of forcing us to carry bells to warn of our diseased presence among others.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Goh, excellent observation. The equivalent of modern-day yellow stars and tattoos.