Smoking Myths (ASH)

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Press Release Feb 2012

ASH in a press release[1] in response to the Adam Smith Institute's paper on Plain packaging said

A report by the Adam Smith Institute published today in advance of a public consultation on tobacco packaging advances the views of the tobacco industry, namely that putting cigarettes in plain standardised packaging would have no public health benefit, would increase the illicit trade in tobacco and would set a “dangerous precedent” for other products.

All of these arguments misrepresent the truth and ignore the fact that glitzy packs are designed to attract new young smokers to replace the 100,000 in the UK who are killed each year by their habit.

The Advertising clause is demonstrably false by the list of research ASH use to support their position being shown to be badly done, ineffectively carried out or actually show the opposite of what they claim. This additionally ignores the better research carried out that shows no such thing. Some of them are pointed out in the section on plain packaging.

Firstly, there is now a large body of evidence to show that plain packaging will be effective. Experimental studies and surveys from around the world show that plain packs are less appealing, strengthen the impact of the health warnings, and make the packs less misleading.

There are no such reliable studies that show this. But that lack of evidence means it must go ahead?

Secondly, there is no evidence that plain packaging will lead to an increase in tobacco smuggling. Existing packs are already easily counterfeited.

Plain packaging certainly won't decrease it, it simply lowers the bar for those wishing to start. But wait! If there's no evidence that plain packs will work, but go ahead with it anyway, how can no evidence that it will incease counterfeiting mean that... you go ahead with it anyway? The mind boggles.

Plain packs will still have to have covert markings, tax stamps and health warnings that are required on current packs so they will be no easier to counterfeit.

And no harder. Tax stamps, if separately applied can be stolen, or trivially copied, health warnings can be copied and the 'covert markings' are of use only to HMRC, not the general public, for differentiating counterfeits from real cigarettes, and it's not necessarily in use at the moment[2](Page 7 Section 5{.11})

And the argument that it will “breach international trade rules and confiscate tobacco companies’ intellectual property” is also fallacious, according to the tobacco industry’s own legal advice, revealed in litigation.

Preventing differentiation of services and products is a breach of trading rules. The document provided by ASH proves nothing against this, and instead reinforces it by pointing out that plain packs were delayed in Australia and defeated in Canada.

Thirdly, the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false. The same argument was used against the ban on tobacco advertising, but 9 years after the tobacco ban in the UK, alcohol advertising is still permitted with no sign of it being prohibited. Tobacco is a uniquely dangerous consumer product which is why there is a WHO health treaty (the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) to regulate tobacco use.

There are special interest groups around that are actually calling for measures applied to tobacco to be applied to alcohol and other 'unhealthy things' (salt and fatty foods among them.) Sometimes covertly, sometimes they're blatant about it.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH commented:

“Why would the tobacco industry and its allies be so vehemently opposed to plain packaging if they weren’t so frightened that plain packaging would work?

Why are others pushing for plain packaging when there's no proof it'll work?

The Adam Smith Institute, by publishing this report, is acting as the mouthpiece for the tobacco industry, as it has done on many previous occasions. It should come as no great surprise that the Institute takes a pro-tobacco line

Why is anyone who is pro-tobacco always seen as being a mouthpiece for the tobacco industry, yet those who are anti-tobacco aren't seen as being mouthpieces for the anti-tobacco industry (usually Government)?

but it should be more transparent about its association with Big Tobacco. ”

Er - they have been. At most 3% of their income[1][2] come from tobacco companies. Perhaps we could have the same amount of transparency from the anti-tobacco groups about how much tax-payer's money they receive. Or how much money they receive from 'big-pharma' that sell nicotine replacement therapies (and are trying to get/have got e-cigs banned.)