Monday 16 March 2015

Last week's news

I wrote a couple of posts for the IEA last week on some topics you might be interested in. I forgot to mention them here at the time.

Firstly, I responded to some complaints about the new 'anti-sockpuppet clause', pointing out that the idea is to stop taxpayers' money being used to fund political campaigns, not to stop charities giving advice to politicians.

Secondly, I assessed the Guardian's claim that 'Australians are ditching cigarettes at record levels' thanks to plain packaging. As the chart below shows, tobacco sales are falling at the usual rate. If anything, plain packaging did its best to reverse that trend.


Christopher Snowdon said...

Does that chart take into account the rapidly expanding black market, Chris? Or are they the figures for official, tax paid sales?

Christopher Snowdon said...

It's only tax-paid sales so the rise in black market tobacco isn't included.

Christopher Snowdon said...

So given that we are told that the already large pre-PP black market has increased by 25% since the advent of PP, one could perhaps deduce that were illicit sales taken into account, that graph would have pretty much flat-lined after the tax hike. Do you have any estimated figures for black market sales? It would be interesting to create a chart which included them to see just how effective PP has been.

Christopher Snowdon said...

That chart says it all. Not simply that PP does not have the effect that Tobacco Control insists it does - the chart's simple and elegant refutation of their BS would be laughable were these people not stripping our freedoms away in pursuit of their obsession - but that every aspect of the so-called democracies of the west are corrupt.

Just what compelling evidence did UK MPs examine before voting in favour of this pointless and obscene law? Did it include this chart?

Christopher Snowdon said...

According to the KPMG report for the Aussie tobacco companies, illicit tobacco products accounted for 13.9% of total sales in 2013 and 11.8% in 2012 - so a 19% increase. Their figure for 2007 (the earliest given) was 8.7% illicit.

Mind you this masks a much greater increase in 'contraband' pre-made cigarettes (sumggled, but real, fags, I presume) of 148% in the same period. This was offest to a degree by a 31% decline in 'unbranded tobacco' - not clear why this happened.

So, make of these what you will. It doesn't appear to be enough to cause Chris's IEA chart to 'flat-line' though.

Chris, I'm not sure what to make of the data behind the IEA chart. I plotted the whole data series from December 1959, using annual totals as well as quarters, and it doesn't really show what might be expected. For example, the figures (which I take to be sales values - or tax take, perhaps) didn't really start to decline until 1983, stayed fairly level until 1990, then fell at a very rapid rate until 1997, when they pretty much levelled off again for the next 12 years or so, with an average decline of around 1% per annum.

The last 4 years have seen a further steepening of the decline with a fall of
7% from 2010 to 2011 (straight after a 25% tax hike), then 4% from 2011 to 2012, then only 2% from 2012 to 2013 (after PP was introduced) and finally another 7% from 2013 to 2014. Given that the last year followed another large (12.5% tax increase) I would venture to conclude that the big tax increases both had an obvious impact, but the packaging change had negligible effect. Having said this, there is an awful lot of noise in terms of possible reasons for declines in tobacco. The KPMG report lists all of the states' anti-tobacco interventions as well as the national ones, and there are so very many that it is too messy to point the finger at any one.

I would like to find out, though, what happened in 1990 to cause such a steep and long-term decline in sales. Especially so, given that this decline was proceded - and followed - by long periods of relatively little change.

We really need to look at all of the data in the round, with these ($) trends, alongside the volume sales trends (also reported by KPMG) and the various surveys reporting on smoking status. I suspect, (based only on quick visual inspection) that the combination of all of these will provide solid evidence that packaging changes have had no material effect on tobacco sales and usage.

But my oh my, aren't the Aussie DoH spinning like crazy, cherry-picking data and trying to make silk purses out of sow's ear surveys? They are on a par with our DoH in the blatant mendacity stakes.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Excellent work and research Chris. It boggles the mind how politicians (or, more to the point, the reasonably smart aides who are supposed to research and advise them) can get hit, over, and over, and over again with information such as embodied in that graph and STILL not understand that virtually everything they hear from Antismokers today is a pack of lies. How much clearer could we actually make it???