Standardised, or 'plain', packaging is intended, according the the anti-smoking proponents, to reduce the number of people (some claims state 'children,' instead of people) taking up smoking because it will "make them less attractive."
Others have pointed out that standardised packaging lowers the existing barriers to counterfeiting by allowing the counterfeiters to not bother too hard with one aspect of making fake cigarettes.
Mexico has recently (Jul 2012) made a request of the Australian government for evidence of the efficacy of standardised packaging [PDF], in particular, back in May 2011:
As pointed out elsewhere, querying people on what they think they might do, isn't measuring what they will actually do.
More recently Ms Roxon has stated in August 2012:
- 1 The European Journal of Public Health - Apr 2015
- 2 Review of UK Government's 2012 consultation - Jan 2013
- 3 Lancet - next: alcohol and food - 25 Aug 2012
- 4 Australian government may implement tax rise to coincide with introduction of standardised packaging - 5 Sep 2012
- 5 Attwood, Scott-Samuel, Stothart, Munafò (2012) - 3 Sep 2012
- 6 Australian Court rules that standardised packaging doesn't infringe IP - 15 Aug 2012
- 7 UK Department of Health public consultation - petitions handed in before deadline Aug 2012
- 8 Roy Ramm, Former Commander of Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard (Jul 2012)
- 9 MPs Open Letter to Secratary of State for Health (Jul 2012)
- 10 Peter Sheridan, ex-Assistant Chief Constable (Jun 2012)
- 11 Roger Helmer MEP (May 2012)
- 12 Suzi Gage (May 2012)
- 13 Ford (2012)
- 14 Borland, Savvas (2012)
- 15 London Economics (2012)
- 16 Royal Holloway, University of London project (2012)
- 17 Munafò, Roberts, Bauld & Leonards (2011)
- 18 J Padilla & N Watson (2008)
- 19 Department of Health (2008)
- 20 M Goldberg, et al. (1995)
- 21 References
The European Journal of Public Health - Apr 2015
A study entitled The association between peer, parental influence and tobacco product features and earlier age of onset of regular smoking among adults in 27 European countries found that when smokers were given up to 3 of 7 factors to chose from which encouraged them to start smoking, namely:
- your friends smoked (peer influence)
- your parents smoked (parental influence)
- 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
- cigarettes were affordable
so few respondants chose anything after the first two items that..
The research itself was
So, clearly, since such strong evidence against both standardised packaging and flavored tobacco was published by the tobacco control side of the fence, this was under-reported.
No doubt if 'Big Tobacco' had funded the research with the same answers it would have been denounced, but since it wasn't, it was brushed under the carpet.
Review of UK Government's 2012 consultation - Jan 2013
- The questions were skewed towards the conclusion that standardised packaging would be adopted as presented without producing a clear baseline of what would happen should it be found that standardised packaging should not be adopted, or proffering policymakers with a 'half-way' house between full adoption or doing nothing. Essentially, the following loaded question was offered: "Are you in favour of standardised packaging or do you want teens and young people to start smoking?"
- Evidence proffered was questionable, and misleading inferences were drawn from said evidence. For example the presumption that there is a link between packaging and smoking. No relationship was actually demonstrated to exist, and certainly no evidence given.
- The DoH actually admitted that the consultation was prone to bias, yet made no attempt at correcting or mitigating it.
- No attempt was made to examine the unintended consequences of applying a standardised packaging policy, for example removing all visual differences between packets would likely result in the determining difference being price with a consequent result. Nor was the potential for increased illicit tobacco examined.
Lancet - next: alcohol and food - 25 Aug 2012
Belies the protestations against the slippery slope argument used in the tobacco template.
Australian government may implement tax rise to coincide with introduction of standardised packaging - 5 Sep 2012
Now it may be rather cynical to suggest that such a huge tax rise may result in fewer cigarettes that raise such taxes being bought and - given the timing - the tax rise may be forgotten, and the reason given for the decrease will be standardised packaging.
To place the cost into perspective, in Feb 2007 a typical packet of 25 cigarettes cost AU$11.25 of which $7.03 was tax (both excise and service) (62.5%)
Australian standardised packaging doesn't result in a decrease in sales
Attwood, Scott-Samuel, Stothart, Munafò (2012) - 3 Sep 2012
In a study that finds it takes longer to drink a poncy French lager if you put it in a straight glass than it would if it was either lager or a soft drink in a fluted glass, they discuss the current state of affairs in the UK with regard to the variety of glasses available in pubs in which drinks may be served:
Australian Court rules that standardised packaging doesn't infringe IP - 15 Aug 2012
In a case where Tobacco companies went to court to argue that standardised packaging would infringe on the Intellectual Property, Chief Justice Robert decided that
UK Department of Health public consultation - petitions handed in before deadline Aug 2012
Roy Ramm, Former Commander of Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard (Jul 2012)
MPs Open Letter to Secratary of State for Health (Jul 2012)
In July 2012, 50 cross-party Members of Parliament signed an open letter to the Secratary of State for Health (Andrew Lansley) pointing out perceived flaws in Plain Packaging, mentioning
Peter Sheridan, ex-Assistant Chief Constable (Jun 2012)
Roger Helmer MEP (May 2012)
Suzi Gage (May 2012)
Even second year students, trying to work their way round the intricacies of anti-smoking propaganda still slip up:
Having spotted what she perceives to be a semantic argument, she then goes on to make a mistake of her own that begs a similar sort of semantic argument:
Whoops. That's not what it says at all.
It says that 8 out of 10 smokers start before the age of 19, not 8 out of 10 people. Even using CRUK's own debatable figures, only 21% of the UK population smoked in 2010, indicating around 17% of the population started before the age of 19, not the 80% of the population Ms. Gage suggests. Yes, it's a blog post, but as a 2nd year Epidemiology PhD student, one would hope for such egregious mistakes which get the numbers almost an order of magnitude wrong to not actually be present. Or at least corrected in a timely fashion - the mistake (published at the beginning of May) was still present over two months later.
A Cancer Research UK funded study of 48 Scottish 15-yr-olds which prompted stories of "Tobacco companies are designing cigarette packs to resemble bottles of perfume or with lids that flip open like a lighter to lure young people into smoking" but in fact shows that teenagers are remarkably unaware of current packaging, and thus standardised packaging will serve no useful purpose in reducing the likelihood of teenagers taking up smoking.
An internet survey of only 160 young Australian smokers, for Tobacco Control, were shown different formats of cigarettes differing by shape, patterning of the filter end, and branding concludes, that the format of the cigarettes themselves should be standardised as 'plain' because of the participants' perceptions that branded cigarettes with cork-patterned filters are higher in quality and stronger in taste
The results of surveying 3,000 people on the effects of the removal of various 'product signals' (such as the branding, or other differentiators between brands) on various products (i.e. not just tobacco) suggest that standardised packaging would result in customers buying cheaper brands for lack of any other signals to select brands on. This could result in the average price of cigarettes dropping, and tobacco companies further reducing their prices to maintain market share. Furthermore:
Royal Holloway, University of London project (2012)
While nothing as grand as a 'study' with a published paper such as the University of Bristol study appears to pretend to be, Tim Holmes has been supervising a study by his 3rd year psychology students. In his own words:
A study, by the University of Bristol, on of the eye movements of 43 (either largely or solely) university-age students when presented with images of both branded and plain packs.
Problems with the study include disparity in the size of packs used between branded and standardised packs, and the small number of participants (less than 25 in each of the three cohorts) with a total male/female ratio of 2/1 and what is presumed to be a narrow age range (average age was 23/24.)
A more serious problem with this study is that it reports its results as being an effect of "salience", which if true, affects low-level, bottom-up visual processes and so should produce similar results in ALL participants, whereas they only find a significant effect for non-smokers and weekly smokers (average of about 8 per week) with NO EFFECT for regular smokers.
Commissioned for Phillip Morris International (PMI), by The Law and Economics Consulting Group(LECG) to review previous research on the subject of generic (plain) packaging, largely with regard to teenagers. It concludes that none of those papers reviewed could provide a reliable basis on which to determine if standardised packaging would reduce smoking levels.
Entitled Consultation on the future of tobacco control, aimed at "PCT CEs, NHS Trust CEs, SHA CEs, Foundation Trust CEs, Medical Directors, Directors of PH, Directors of Nursing, Local Authority CEs, Communications Leads," this report came up with a lot of conclusions that contained the words 'may,' 'might,' 'could' and other weasel words.
It was also very selective in quoting parts of other research, while ignoring the parts that contradicted the, perceived, desired outcome for this report.
A report for Health Canada, of teenagers, over 5 different studies, to examine the potential effect standardised packaging might have on
- the uptake of smoking to begin with,
- the impact on the recognition of, and the ability to remember, the warnings on packaging,
- the probability of stopping smoking
The surveys were largely about what teenagers think they'd do, and not what they'd actually do, with regard to standardised packaging.
- File:Mexico plain packaging.pdf
- File:Roxon press conference may 2011.pdf
- Packaging doesn't make people start smoking - study - Velvet Glove, Iron Fist blog
- 4,442 Reasons Why Plain Packaging Won't Work - Dick Puddlecote blog]]
- Selecting the Evidence - Rupert Darwall
- Australia's plain tobacco packaging - The Lancet
- Tax rise will cost smokers a packet - Yahoo News
- Tobacco taxes in Australia - Tobacco in Australia
- Tobacco sales in Australia since plain packaging - IEA
- Glass Shape Influences Consumption Rate for Alcoholic Beverages - PLoS ONE
- Big tobacco says plain packs are bad - Sky News
- Over 235,000 petition against plain packaging - Hands Off Our Packs!
- More than 75,000 Cancer Research UK supporters want to ban tobacco branding - CRUK
- Government Plans for Plain Packaging Will Boost Illicit Trade - Huffington Post
- Open Letter (to the Secretary of State for Health) - Scribd
- Plans for plain packaging of cigarettes are a charter for organised crime and a danger to our children - Daily Mail
- Plain packaging? Plain nonsense - The Commentator
- Tobacco Control, Plain Packaging, and Media Misinformation - Sifting the Evidence blog on SciLogs WebCite archive
- Smoking statistics - CRUK
- Suzi Gage's profile - Nature Network
- Designer packs being used to lure new generation of smokers - The Independant