Huge drop in Australian smoking rates attributed to standardised packs
New figures released by the Australian government have shown adult smoking rates have fallen by a massive 15%. Before the measure was introduced in December 2012, daily smoking prevalence stood at 15.1% and has now fallen to 12.8%. Standardised packaging is the only new policy intervention over this time period and is therefore the most likely reason for the significant fall in smoking prevalence.
If the smoking rate has really fallen from 15.1% to 12.8% in the year and a half since plain packaging came in, that would be good prima facie evidence that the policy is working. Smoking rates in Australia have been falling since the 1970s, but a decline of 2.3 percentage points would be two or three times greater than the annual decline.
Impressive stuff, then, and ASH's Deborah Arnott is excited:
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:"The UK government is currently consulting on standardised packaging before deciding whether to proceed and has asked for new and emerging evidence. Well here it is and it demonstrates a massive decline in smoking prevalence in Australia following introduction of standardised packaging. This is exactly the strong and convincing evidence the tobacco industry said was needed."
There's only one problem. She's lying. Almost incredibly, the date ASH describes as being "before the measure was introduced" was not November 2012 (the month before plain packaging came in). It is not 2012 at all. It is not even 2011. The date they are referring to is 2010, more than two years before plain packaging was introduced.
ASH even gives the reference to the Australian report in its press release so that anyone can check it. I urge you to do so. It very clearly shows a steady and gradual downward trend in smoking rates going back to 1993. There is no increase in the rate of decline in 2013 and no effect from plain packaging. The rate has not "fallen by a massive 15%" since plain packaging came in, as ASH claims, and there has not been "a massive decline in smoking prevalence in Australia following introduction of standardised packaging".
The data show that the smoking rate has been falling by 0.4-0.9 percentage points every year for twenty years and has continued to do so since plain packaging came in. There has not been a "huge drop" in smoking rates since the policy was enacted. There has been, at best, a mundane and totally predictable continuation of the secular decline.
The report that ASH uses as its sole reference says that "daily smoking declined significantly between 2010 and 2013 (from 15.1% to 12.8%)". This is a three year period. There is no mention of a three year period in the ASH propaganda. Their trick is pathetically simple. They are taking a three year gradual decline and pretending that it is a one year "huge" decline. There is nothing more to it than that. It is a piece of transparent mischief that a child could see through.
Use whatever term you want - "spinning", "bending the facts", "twisting the truth" - but ASH are doing what they have been doing for years. They are - quite simply - lying, and they are using the crudest of tricks to do so.
Credit to the British media for doing due diligence on this trash and not reporting it. The same cannot be said for the Sydney Morning Herald which has reported it as fact and included a quote from the parasitic sociologist Simon Chapman that does the unthinkable by making ASH look almost honest. I advise you to sit down before reading it...
These people are truly amongst the greatest and most brazen charlatans of our time."It's almost like finding a vaccine that works very well against lung cancer," said Simon Chapman, a professor in public health at the University of Sydney.