Wednesday, 25 June 2014

That Aussie plain packaging data again

More on that plain packaging/tobacco sales controversy—which really shouldn't be controversial...

As Terry McCrann says in the Herald Sun, "the mindless and usually vicious stupidity of the left has been on vivid and utterly dependable display in what might be termed the cigarette packaging war over the last few weeks."

The facts are pretty clear and they can be seen in this graph that shows seasonally adjusted tobacco sales (see previous post for more details).


This really requires no further comment, but I'm happy to let McCrann take it from here for those who need further explanation.

Hell hath no fury like another leftist “feel-good-idea-at-the-time” policy exposed as a failure. A torrent of abuse was unleashed from the left, initiated by former, ahem, Gillard adviser and, in his all-too inadvertently accurate words, “one of Australia’s leading economic visionaries”, Stephen Koukoulas.

... In the usual cocktail of stupidity and dishonesty, the Kouk cited official statistics showing the volume of tobacco consumption in the March 2014 quarter was 5.3 per cent lower than in the December 2012 quarter when the law came into effect. What he did not point out, and as our graph from the Macrobusiness blog shows, virtually the entire fall came in the March quarter itself — which just happened to follow a thumping 12.5 per cent excise increase. What the Kouk is also unable to comprehend is that the ABS figures he cited are merely a proxy for actual tobacco and cigarette volumes; no one who understands statistics would claim they literally measure actual volumes.

... You don’t have to have any particular knowledge of statistics to pick up the clearest signal from the graph. That over the course of 2013 — after plain packaging, the spend on smokes arguably rose and at worst went sideways. This interrupted an equally unambiguous downward trend in the spend. That trend either resumed this year, or because of the big excise thumping.

I don't know why Koukoulas has decided to keep flogging this dead horse (loyalty to Gillard is McCrann's theory) and I was none the wiser after he started a conversation with me on Twitter this week (you can see it here). He seems to have mentally blocked out the whole of 2013 in his analysis. It's remarkable.

There's no helping those who have eyes and fail to see, but if the plain packaging lobby get away with persuading people that the graph above—which shows that tobacco sales were higher in three out of four quarters after plain packaging came in than they had been before—proves that the policy works, then the scoundrels can get away with anything.

5 comments:

JD said...

And of course the BMJ tobacco control blog (a Chapman front)regurgitates all the Kouk's rubbish. Interesting that they *never* allow any informed dissent in the comments stream on that blog....

JohnB said...

Chris
Have you seen these?

http://blogs.bmj.com/tc/2014/06/24/academics-and-the-australian-go-up-in-smoke/
http://www.smh.com.au/comment/plain-packaging-shaming-smokers-into-quitting-20140624-zsjt9.html?rand=5053901#comments

Alex said...

The other point is that the graph does not show a decrease in smoking, including after the tax hike.
It shows a long term decline in cigarettes bought legally; not at all the same thing.

Christopher Snowdon said...

That Tobacco Control blog displays an incredible degree of cognitive dissonance. The guy even lists the figures showing three of the four quarters of 2013 had higher sales than the last quarter before plain packaging, but then somehow concludes that Dec 2013 was "aberrant" and that comparing like for like (ie. Dec 2012 and Dec 2013) is 'cherry-picking'!

Junican said...

You have to laugh. Freeman quoted this:
Just to be sure, Independent Australia wrote to the ABS and received this reply [IA emphasis]:

‘Chain volume measures provide a time series of expenditure that are free of the direct effects of price change. They do not represent quantities, such as kilograms or tonnes. They are calculated by deflating current price expenditure data with an appropriate price index. This forms a volume index.’
(Her emphasis)
Good try, Becky, but:
Just to be sure, Independent Australia wrote to the ABS and received this reply [IA emphasis]:

‘Chain volume measures provide a time series of expenditure that are free of the direct effects of price change. They do not represent quantities, such as kilograms or tonnes. They are calculated by deflating current price expenditure data with an appropriate price index. This forms a volume index.’
(My emphasis)