Monday 5 March 2012

A real scientist speaks

One of the bits of voodoo science upon which the anti-smoking extremists are pinning their hopes vis a vis plain packaging came from the pen of Linda Bauld. You may recall Bauld as the fantasist who insists that the smoking ban did no harm to England's pubs. She works at the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, an organisation that the BBC correctly described as a "campaign group" over the weekend. Although she is not a scientist herself, she is the scientific advisor on tobacco control to the Department of Health.

Her study involved using eye-tracking technology to monitor how long people linger on cigarette health warnings. She claimed that non-smokers (but not smokers) look at warnings for longer on plain packets than on normal packets and concluded that: "Plain packaging will make health warnings appear more prominent and strengthen their impact." This finding was duly misreported by our cretinous media under such headlines as "Smokers ignore health warnings".

There are a couple of critical flaws in this logic. Health warnings only tell people what they have known about smoking since they were about five years old and it takes a massive leap of faith to think that people's decision to smoke will be altered by an few extra milliseconds looking at them. It is simply absurd to believe, in 2012, that people of any age start smoking without being cognisant of the risks.

More interestingly, a vision scientist at Royal Holloway, University of London, has carried out a very similar experiment but got some quite different results. Dr Timothy Holmes used eye-tracking technology on a sample of 59 students and found the following...

...we were surprised to observe two interesting results: the non-smokers looked at the warning messages much less than the other participants, and there was no difference between plain and branded package designs in the amount of time spent looking at the warning message.

Now, it’s great that the right people are looking more at the warning message, but if this doesn’t result in an increased risk perception then surely the messages aren’t doing their job! Moreover, if removing the brand identity doesn’t change the way people look at the packets then maybe plain packaging, which will be costly to implement, isn’t the best of ideas.

Holmes' results are shown below. Non-smokers looked at the brand (blue) more than the warning (red) in both cases, but the type of packaging made no difference to either group.

So, on the one hand, you have a professional vision scientist who has no agenda and no axe grind finding that plain packaging won't make any difference (and giving plausible reasons to support his empirical data.) On the other hand, you have a professor of socio-management who works for an anti-smoking campaign group, using the same methods but finding that plain packaging will make a difference.

Ooh, who to trust?


nisakiman said...

Well of course it goes without saying that the government will listen to he who shouts loudest and longest. And the antis are in the habit of screaming unrelentingly.

Anyway, any studies are irrelevant. They decided a while back that they'd force plain packaging on us, consultations notwithstanding.

Another classic case of deciding on the answer before asking the question. Your excellent appraisal for the ASI will be roundly ignored, as will any other information that doesn't concur with the tobacco demonisation agenda.

Anonymous said...

"Ooh, who to trust?"

It's a toughie...

Notwithstanding that, I wouldn't have thought that in the real world, non-smokers really get the chance to gawp at health warnings on packs, plain or otherwise.


Frank J said...

I'm confused. Have I missed something? Why would non smokers 'linger' on a packet of fags? I don't generally look at something I don't want. What form of perverted logic concludes that this will have an effect on smokers? What's any of it got to bleeding well do with plain packaging?

My head hurts. It must be me.

Anonymous said...

This issue has been settled.

Advertising/pretty packages can not be proven in a court of law to cause people to start smoking nor is tobacco more addictive than cocaine.

Gary K.

[2005] CSOH 69


in the cause








[9.1] I now set out my main conclusions, which should be read in conjunction with the passages of discussion to which cross-references are given.

[9.3] Mr McTear started smoking no earlier than 1964. I am satisfied that advertising had nothing to do with his reasons for starting to smoke.(para.[4.226]).

[6.208]). The averment that tobacco is more addictive than cocaine is not proved.

Anonymous said...

After careful study of particpants it was discovered the positive group that starred at warning labels the longest had ''LAZY EYE''

It is with great sorrow we admit stacking the study with select individuals with this abnormality.

Anonymous said...

Now is the time to take these Tobacco Control nuts to Court as individuals and hear what they have to say under oath.

Sue them for every penny.