Monday 24 March 2014

Australia under plain packaging: legal sales up, illegal sales up

Well, this is awkward...

Australia tobacco sales increase despite plain packaging

Deliveries of tobacco to retailers in Australia rose slightly last year for the first time in at least five years, even after the introduction of plain packaging aimed at deterring smokers, according to industry sales figures to be released on Monday.

... In 2013, the first full year of plain packaging, tobacco companies sold the equivalent of 21.074 billion cigarettes in Australia, according to industry data provided by Marlboro maker Philip Morris International.

That marks a 0.3 per cent increase from 2012, and reverses four straight years of declines.

The exact reason for the upturn was unclear. Some tobacco companies argue that higher shipments of loose tobacco and a decline in cigarettes suggest smokers may be trading down to cheaper products and can therefore afford to buy more of them.

It seems that people buy tobacco for the tobacco, not the packet. Who'd have thunk it?

Add this rise in legal tobacco sales to the rise in illegal sales and it would appear that the Nicola Roxon/Simon Chapman vanity project is suffering from lots of unintended consequences and no intended consequences.


Jon Fell said...

Have you seen the underlying data for this? I can quite believe that plain packaging has had no material impact on consumption but I'm not a big fan of newspaper stories on public health issues that don't point to actual published and reputable data sources (we know which way that tends to work). For instance, it would be useful to see the figure for 2012, and ask whether 2013 is unwinding some effect that depressed the prior year (eg retailers depleting their stocks in advance of the change of package).
Jon Fell

Vova said...

At some point some clown will say 'but these figures are from the tobacco companies so they're lies'

nisakiman said...


Someone already has, in the comments:

oxymoron ronmoz • 6 hours ago

Gone up by "0.3 per cent increase from 2012" according to who?, "according to industry data provided by Marlboro maker Philip Morris International", the tobacco industry, haha give me a break.

Carl V Phillips said...

JD, done already (and you could not be more right about "clown"):

Junican said...

Jon Fell might well be correct - I have calculated that 0.3% is very roughly about one day's supply. However, had PP had any on-going effect, one would have expected a fall over the year of some significance.
But there is another oddity. What has (or should have) been the effect of duty increases in the year?

Jon Fell said...

It won't be 'audited' - and there might be issues over licensing of the data - but Australian tobacco companies must have access to detailed estimates of consumer off-take through Nielsen. That, rather than deliveries to retailers, is what will really tell you whether / how consumer behaviour changed after the introduction of plain packaging (though, as Junican says, you'd need also to take account of price movements as well as volume).