Friday 23 January 2015

Will plain pack campaigners put their money where their mouth is?

I don't know if you heard, but Britain's government of nominally conservative and liberal politicians gave the green light to plain packaging this week. The vote in parliament will be a formality.

The surprise announcement on Wednesday night was the culmination of several years of intense campaigning which swallowed up millions of pounds of taxpayers' money and yet the idea remains as futile, silly and counterproductive as it was when I first wrote about it six years ago. More so, in fact, because we have since had real world evidence from Australia proving its ineffectiveness.

The campaign has gone on so long that I suspect the public will expect to see real results this time. It won't be like graphic warnings or the ban on cigarette vending machines, when legislation was pushed through quickly and then forgotten about. The public health lobby has an aversion to assessing its policies in retrospect for obvious reasons—most of them don't work. As I have said many times before, tobacco control is not a results-driven business, but the claims about plain packaging have been so hysterically overblown that I don't think the public will forget them overnight, no matter what fresh campaign is launched to take our minds off it.

We have been told, by none other than the corpulent 'public health' luminary Martin McKee, that the best way to tell if an anti-smoking policy is effective is to watch the markets.

We are also told that plain packaging is a bigger deal in the UK than it is in Australia. We have a larger population and we are regarded as more influential to copycat nations in the West than distant Oz. So how did the markets react to the seismic news this week?

Here's BAT's share price...

Here's Imperial Tobacco's share price...

And here's Philip Morris's share price...

ASH et al. have committed a lot of money to the idea of plain packaging in recent years, most of it belonging to taxpayers. Would they, I wonder, bet their own money on the policy working? Because the people who actually do have money in the game are calling their bluff.


Christopher Snowdon said...

The tobacco companies know full well, having seen what happened in Australia, that the only threat PP presents to them is the forthcoming inevitable surge in counterfeit cigarettes. However, that is only a minor part of the smuggling operations. The bulk of the surge in smuggled tobacco products will be the genuine article shipped in from countries with a less punitive tax regime (and no photoshopped grotesqueries adorning the pack), so their profits from those will be unaffected. They have seen already that sales are, if anything, higher after the introduction of PP, so what's not to like? Not only that, but their printing costs will be reduced! Win win!

Christopher Snowdon said...

Interesting, that McKee quote. A cynical person might deduce from it that the Public Health bods are less interested in, you know, public health, than they are in whether there's a profit in tobacco. Two things which clearly have nothing to do with eachother.

Yay for fundamentalist health policy!

Christopher Snowdon said...

Tobacco companies will also not have to worry about brand loyalty either, as has happened in Australia, they wont need to spend any money on pack designs. Without brand loyalty, tobacco companies can only compete on pricing, and smokers in Australia are buying cheaper cigarettes, and more of them. As well as the considerable rise in black market tobacco, chop chop, and black market cigarettes, many supplied from our near neighbours.

There has also been a rise in young teenagers smoking, but the tobacco control nutters here will never admit they got it wrong. They are the useful idiots of the companies they say they hate. They are so used to telling lies now, that I don't think they would recognise the truth if it jumped up and bit them on the bum.

Politicians will be happy because they can put on their oh so serious faces, and look like they are doing something "for the cheeeldren" , when in fact this will achieve nothing at all.

I recommend that those that wish to smoke, purchase themselves a nice cigarette case, they've made a big come back in Aus.

Christopher Snowdon said...

It is the sheer stupidity and utter cowardice that gets to me. How dare our alleged representatives pass anything so absurd, so irresponsible, so pointless and so dishonest into law? I can only conclude that they have no respect for parliament, the values of their country, the law and themselves.

Actually being intellectually challenged, although applicable tin many cases, is no excuse.

Christopher Snowdon said...

You can bet the tobacco companies will launch intellectual property rights law suits too. Which will ultimately cost the tax payer. Maybe twice, and all for nothing.

The best idea I saw was posted by @schristie on twitter. Print ecig/nrt adverts on fag packets rather than the images that are currently ignored.

Christopher Snowdon said...

>>ASH et al. have committed a lot of money to the idea of plain packaging in recent years, most of it belonging to taxpayers. Would they, I wonder, bet their own money on the policy working?

Of course not, it's our money they piss away. Interesting that the half-witted beancounters - sorry I mean health economists - at NICE don't even try to work out the value for money in relation to 'Public Health'.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Have you seen this I can work it out.

Christopher Snowdon said...

It's junk science conducted under totally utterly unrealistic circustmstances. See Clive Bates and Michael Siegel to see why.

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