Our response to UK government’s decision on plain packaging ahead of general election
22 January 2015
A British American Tobacco spokesperson said:
“This is a serious error of judgment given the clear evidence from Australia that plain packaging has not achieved any of its public health objectives and has increased illicit trade to its highest level in seven years.
“It is also inappropriate for the UK Government to pre-empt the findings of its own public consultation by rushing this announcement out.”
The Australia experience
“When plain packaging was introduced in Australia in 2012, tobacco control groups and the Australian Government outlined three objectives: reduce overall smoking rates; reduce youth smoking rates; and increase the effectiveness of health warnings.
“Two years on and according to all these metrics, plain packaging is failing and has not delivered on any of its promises:
- Youth smoking rates are at a 7-year high following the introduction of Plain Packaging
- Plain Packaging has had no effect on the sales volumes and expenditures of legal tobacco
- Plain Packaging has had no effect on adult smoking rates
- The prominence of health warnings has diminished following Plain Packaging
- The percentage of smokers surveyed consuming more than 11 cigarettes a day has increased.
“Instead, the Australian taxpayers and the Government lost out on AUS$1.2 billion in tax revenue given the illicit trade in tobacco has increased in Australia by 25% between 2012 and 2014 and it is now at its highest level in seven years.”
Notes to editors
Youth smoking rates are at a 7-year high following the introduction of Plain Packaging
- The Australian Federal Government's own 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey data shows youth smoking rates (12-17 year olds) increased by 36% between 2010 and 2013, despite the introduction of Plain Packaging during that period.
Plain Packaging has had no effect on the sales volumes and expenditures of legal tobacco
- InfoView compiles industry Exchange of Sales data, which demonstrate that legal volumes of tobacco increased by the equivalent of 59 million sticks in the first 12 months following the implementation of plain packaging. This reversed a multi-year trend of volume decline: between 2008 and 2012 the volume of factory-made cigarettes and roll-your-own/loose tobacco sold in Australia declined an average rate of 4.1% per year.
Plain Packaging has had no effect on adult smoking rates
- Roy Morgan Research is Australia's longest-established market research company. They are wholly independent, have a strong reputation for reliability and accuracy, and are used and trusted by both governments (including Australia's Institute for Health and Welfare) and businesses. Their monthly figures for adult (18+) smoking prevalence show a long-standing decline trend that has not accelerated since the introduction of Plain Packaging. In fact, the trend for the year 2013 shows a 1.8% annual increase.
The percentage of smokers consuming more than 11 cigarettes a day has increased
- The New South Wales Cancer Institute Tobacco Tracking Survey asked smokers about their smoking behaviour. The survey found that in 2013, after the introduction of Plain Packaging, the proportion of daily smokers and daily smokers consuming more than 11 cigarettes a day increased.
The effectiveness of health warnings has diminished following Plain Packaging
- The New South Wales Cancer Institute Tobacco Tracking Survey asked Australian smokers whether the graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging encouraged them to quit smoking. The evidence demonstrates that fewer smokers (10% in first 12 months following the introduction of Plain Packaging) believed that health warnings encouraged them to quit.
Impact on illicit tobacco trade in Australia
- According to an industry funded report by KPMG ‘Illicit tobacco in Australia, 2014 Half Year’ report published in October 2014, in 2012, illicit tobacco stood at 11.5% of tobacco consumption. By mid-2014 it reached an unprecedented 14.3% share of the market. An increase of nearly 25%.