Plain tobacco packaging ‘fails’ in Australia

Australia’s introduction of plain tobacco packaging has been branded a failure, five years after its implementation. Australia introduced the first branding ban on tobacco products in the world on 1 December 2012. However, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said it has “failed to produce effective outcomes” and “serves as a warning to other countries looking to adopt similar measures”.

David Clement, North American affairs manager at the CCC, said: “Since 2012, the daily smoker rate has remained steady at 12%. This is despite the reported $12.69m the government will spend on enforcing this law over the next decade, according to their Department of Health. “Added to that, the market share of illegal tobacco in Australia has risen 30% since 2012, as contraband tobacco has become a lucrative avenue for would-be smugglers. This has resulted in over $1.6bn in lost tax revenue, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.” Clement added: “What Australia has taught us is that the plain packaging of tobacco products does not reduce smoking, discourages alternatives, and creates a robust illegal trade in black market cigarettes.”

Suleman Khonat, national spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, told IRN: “Five years on from its introduction in Australia, plain packaging has been proven not to work as confirmed by the Australian government’s own findings. “In the UK we have already found the first counterfeit plain packs which could make it easier for retailers to be dragged unknowingly into the illicit trade. We repeatedly warned the government that this was likely to happen and yet they ignored us.” Simon Clark, director of Forest, added: “Data shows plain packaging has had no impact on the prevalence of smoking in Australia which is the same now as it was in 2013. In fact, because of population growth, more people are smoking in Australia than five years ago.” He said: “Smokers don’t care about packaging. It’s the product not the pack that matters. “Plain packaging is no deterrent to teenagers either. Few people ever started smoking because they were attracted to the pack.” Clark urged the UK government to commission an independent review of the impact of plain packaging as part of its new tobacco control plan which was announced in July. He added: “Policies should be evidence-based. Plain packaging is based not on evidence but on wishful thinking. “The measure has failed in Australia and it will fail in the UK.”

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