You can’t plain package the facts

Plain-packaging

new paper by Ashok Kail and Michael Wolf clearly demonstrates that there is an “absence of any plain packaging effect” on the sale of tobacco. For Nanny Staters, it isn’t pretty reading.

As the graph to the right shows, the introduction of Nicola Roxon’s plain packaging laws had no statistically significant effect on the sale of tobacco in Australia.

I wasn’t in the room when they wrote the policy, but I don’t think this the outcome they were hoping for.

This is the second blow for the policy’s supporters this week. On Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that sales of cigarettes to retailers had risen slightly last year, the first full year of plain packaging.

In 2013, the first full year of plain packaging, tobacco companies sold the equivalent of 21.074 billion cigarettes in Australia, according to industry data provided by Marlboro maker Philip Morris International.

That marks a 0.3 per cent increase from 2012, and reverses four straight years of declines.

Four straight years of decline comes to an end. But why?

“When you commoditise a product, people go after the price,” said Eoin Dardis, director of corporate affairs for Philip Morris in Britain.

“If people are buying cheaper stuff, maybe they’re smoking more of it, I don’t know … It’s definitely a point of interest and that’s something that absolutely needs to be explored because that’s the counter of what this policy was seeking to achieve.”

So now that it’s clear that the policy is an absolute failure, I will wait patiently at my desk for Nicola Roxon’s public apology.

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