Tuesday, 13 March 2018

More Inevitable Plain Packaging Failure

Once celebrated as offering "a vaccine against lung cancer" by an over-excitable Sydney pensioner, reality keeps butting in and pointing out that plain packaging was a laughable policy and a scandalous waste of public money.

Via the Australian yesterday:
$16bn up in smoke as tobacco use rises for first time in decade
Consumption of cigarettes has risen for the first time in more than a decade, adding to concerns about the effectiveness of measures to reduce smoking. 
December saw the biggest annual rise in the seasonally adjusted measure of cigarette and tobacco consumption since 2004. The figures, contained in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest national accounts, emerge amid a debate over the prevailing ban on nicotine use in e-cigs or vaporisers. 
Over the last year, Australians spent just under $16bn on cigarettes and tobacco products.
The Department of Health’s latest review of the national tobacco strategy said targets to reduce the smoking rate to 10 per cent, and halve smoking rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, were unlikely to be met. 
“While smoking rates have been on a long-term downward trend, for the first time in more than two decades the daily smoking rate did not significantly decline over the most recent three-year period,” the 2016 national drug strategy found.
I don't know about you, but that doesn't look much like a vaccine to me.

It's been one long tale of woe for the Aussie government since they introduced plain packs. First there was the 36% increase in smoking amongst 12-17 year olds immediately after implementation - a bit embarrassing since the policy was sold heavily on the premise that it would turn kids off. Following that we have seen nothing but relentless failure - in every Australian state - despite desperate attempts by the Australian government to hide it.

Then, in summer 2017, it was revealed that the Australian smoking prevalence rate had flatlined since 2013, despite plain packs being mandated from December 2012. If that wasn't embarrassing enough, yesterday's news of the first increase in smoking for over a decade, accepted by their government, must surely be classified as extremely humiliating.

Then, today, from France we hear this.
Cigarette price hikes and plain packages fail to stop French sparking up
French people are lighting up as much as ever despite the launch of plain packaging and the rising cost of the habit, new figures reveal. 
Launched in January 2017, it was hoped that plain packaging would decrease the number of French smokers but new figures show that 29 percent of them are still lighting up - a figure that has remained stable in recent years. 
Lung doctor, Bertrand Dautzenberg who had been a staunch defender of the plain packaging reform, admitted that it had not affected sales in an interview with Le Parisien last May, adding that he believed the cost of the habit would need to go up to 10 euros a packet for there to be a drop in the number of smokers. 
Now, when even a "staunch defender" of plain packs admits it is a failure it is not just any old failure, but a monumentally humbling and cringeworthy failure. Saying that it requires tax rises to work merely says that tax rises work, not plain packaging. It's a striking admission of abject defeat.

Worse still, we know from May 2017 that cigarette sales in France increased after plain packaging was introduced. So if there are the same amount of smokers, as the latest data show, it means that plain packaging has actually encouraged smokers to smoke more.

Tobacco control failure simply doesn't get any funnier than that.

Next up to try this utterly pointless policy is New Zealand, where it was implemented today. Why they think they will have any more chance of success than other countries where plain packs have dramatically failed is anyone's guess.

It also calls into question the intellect of the idiots running these countries. All of them seem happy to introduce a controversial policy for which there was absolutely no prior evidence of success - and about which there is now plenty of evidence of failure - despite it necessarily obliterating intellectual property rights and fundamentally intruding on centuries-old concepts of personal and business freedom. Yet when presented with dramatic evidence of the spectacular success of e-cigs and heat not burn harm reduction products in states which have allowed their sale - where the level of success correlates positively with the less they are restricted - politicians just shrug their shoulders and say "we just can't be sure".

Failure is success; success is to be feared. This is the fairy tale that politicians, academics and civil servants tell the public these days. Is it any wonder democratic votes all around the world now routinely reject this kind of arrogant elitist snobbery? 

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