Only the left-wing media bothered to cover this effort, ie. the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent. The latter managed to balls up its report by using the headline 'Australia shows that plain tobacco packaging significantly cuts smoking' (the study had nothing to do with smoking rates), but the Beeb followed basic journalistic standards by quoting opposing views (FOREST and the Tobacco Manufacturers Association) which gave some semblance of balance.
The Guardian report, in the other hand, was extraordinary one-sided from the outset...
Claims that plain cigarette packaging would hurt small independent retailers and increase use of illicit, unbranded tobacco have formed the core of big tobacco’s argument against plain packaging.
But those arguments have been debunked by new Victorian research, which public health experts have described as a win for science.
It included a quote from the lead author (who, tellingly, is a tobacco control 'policy adviser'), as well as a quote from veteran anti-smoking campaigner Mike Daube and, above all, a lengthy quote from Jurassic wowser Simon Chapman:
A professor of public health at the University of Sydney and tobacco control expert, Simon Chapman, said big tobacco feared a domino effect of plain packaging reforms around the world with nine countries implementing or considering it.
“Canada was the first country to introduce graphic warnings on cigarette packets and within 10 years, 60 other countries had followed suit,” Chapman said.
“California did the first banning of smoking in restaurants and now that has swept throughout the world. There are many examples in tobacco control policy of the domino theory at work.”
The tobacco giant Philip Morris has threatened to sue the British government if it forges ahead with its plain packaging reforms.
The arguments from tobacco companies against plain packaging made no sense whatsoever, Chapman said.
“Of course smokers have always known, even before plain packaging, that cigarettes are cheaper in supermarkets,” he said.
“So the only thing that would drive more people away from small retailers would be if supermarket prices fell even further.”
The only 'balance' in the article came in the form of a brief and cursory quote from the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores, half of which was complimentary towards the group that funded the study.
The words used by the reporter - 'debunked', 'big tobacco', 'discredit tobacco reforms', 'made no sense whatsoever' - as well as the tendency to present opinion as fact - '[cigarette packaging] is used as a way of marketing towards young people' - give the article the feel of an advocacy piece rather than a work of journalism.
So who is this reporter? Step forward Melissa Davey who just happens to be completing a Masters Degree in public health at the University of Sydney where Simon Chapman just happens to be a senior tutor.
@MelissaLDavey @sydney_uni Ours is longest running MPH in Australia (1978). I was wide-eyed tutor in first cohort
— Simon Chapman (@SimonChapman6) March 2, 2013
@MelissaLDavey Give me a call tomorrow if you want to run them by me
— Simon Chapman (@SimonChapman6) November 26, 2013
@SimonChapman6 That's lovely of you to offer. I will do, thanks Simon. Congrats on Skeptic award too!
— Melissa Davey (@MelissaLDavey) November 26, 2013
I have a feeling that Melissa is going to pass with flying colours.