British American Tobacco Australia has been quick to herald figures that claim more cigarettes have been sold since the mandatory requirement for plain packaging first went into effect in 2012. The tobacco groups are holding this up as proof that the plain packaging policy does not have a discernable impact on tobacco usage. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, however, has data and studies that contradict these findings. The Australian Labor party was originally behind the packaging ban.
BATA and Philip Morris, two international cigarette companies, financially back a research group called InfoView. InfoView found that there was a 0.3% increase in the volume of cigarettes sold. This information was published on the front page of the Australian. The figures also showed that the yearly decline in people quitting smoking fell by half.
BATA has issued a press release that slams the concept of plain packaging. “With growth in industry volumes, fewer people quitting and a jump in the amount of cheap illegal cigarettes… you could draw the conclusion that people are actually smoking more now than before plain packaging came into effect,” claimed BATA spokesman Scott McIntyre.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has indicated a continual drop in the percentage of smoking Australians, as well as less money spent per household on tobacco. South Australia, in the past year, has actually recorded a rise in the percentage of people smoking. Catherine King, the opposition health minister, doesn’t take the tobacco industry data very seriously. She says that the only reason the industry finds issues with plain packaging is “because they know they’ll be selling fewer cigarettes to fewer people.”
The InfoView data did not take into account population growth for its research, and many tobacco researchers say that so far, it is too early to measure the effect of the recent ban, but preliminary findings suggest that people are, indeed, turned off by the packing which features photographs of smoking’s effects, such as blackened lungs. If plain packaging were indeed a boon to the tobacco industry, why would they be deriding the packaging ban?
According to data provided by the British Medical Journal, 31% of surveyed smokers who bought plain packaged products felt that their cigarettes were of lower quality than before.