Thursday 19 March 2015

The plain packs cottage industry

Yawn. Another day, another Guardian article desperately trying to pretend that plain packaging wasn't a flop.

Comprehensive research shows a year [sic] after being introduced, Australia’s legislation is a success and has prompted smokers to think about quitting

This refers to a supplement from Tobacco Control magazine which brings together a number of studies on the subject, topped off with an editorial by "Mad" Gerard Hastings.

All the studies have something in common. See if you can spot what it is...

Australian adult smokers’ responses to plain packaging with larger graphic health warnings 1 year after implementation: results from a national cross-sectional tracking survey
Melanie Wakefield, Kerri Coomber, Meghan Zacher, Sarah Durkin, Emily Brennan, Michelle Scollo

Short-term changes in quitting-related cognitions and behaviours after the implementation of plain packaging with larger health warnings: findings from a national cohort study with Australian adult smokers
Sarah Durkin, Emily Brennan, Kerri Coomber, Meghan Zacher, Michelle Scollo, Melanie Wakefield

Are quitting-related cognitions and behaviours predicted by proximal responses to plain packaging with larger health warnings? Findings from a national cohort study with Australian adult smokers
Emily Brennan, Sarah Durkin, Kerri Coomber, Meghan Zacher, Michelle Scollo, Melanie Wakefield

Has the introduction of plain packaging with larger graphic health warnings changed adolescents’ perceptions of cigarette packs and brands?
Victoria White, Tahlia Williams, Melanie Wakefield

Do larger graphic health warnings on standardised cigarette packs increase adolescents’ cognitive processing of consumer health information and beliefs about smoking-related harms?
Victoria White, Tahlia Williams, Agatha Faulkner, Melanie Wakefield

“You're made to feel like a dirty filthy smoker when you're not, cigar smoking is another thing all together.” Responses of Australian cigar and cigarillo smokers to plain packaging
Caroline L Miller, Kerry A Ettridge, Melanie A Wakefield

Changes in use of types of tobacco products by pack sizes and price segments, prices paid and consumption following the introduction of plain packaging in Australia
Michelle Scollo, Meghan Zacher, Kerri Coomber, Megan Bayly, Melanie Wakefield

Use of illicit tobacco following introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco products in Australia: results from a national cross-sectional survey
Michelle Scollo, Meghan Zacher, Kerri Coomber, Melanie Wakefield

The advertised price of cigarette packs in retail outlets across Australia before and after the implementation of plain packaging: a repeated measures observational study
Michelle Scollo, Megan Bayly, Melanie Wakefield

The supplement is padded out with four op-eds which continue the theme...

Plain packaging: a logical progression for tobacco control in one of the world's ‘darkest markets’
Michelle Scollo, Megan Bayly, Melanie Wakefield

Standardised packaging and new enlarged graphic health warnings for tobacco products in Australia—legislative requirements and implementation of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 and the Competition and Consumer (Tobacco) Information Standard, 2011
Michelle Scollo, Kylie Lindorff, Kerri Coomber, Megan Bayly, Melanie Wakefield

Did the recommended retail price of tobacco products fall in Australia following the implementation of plain packaging?
Michelle Scollo, Megan Bayly, Melanie Wakefield

Personal pack display and active smoking at outdoor café strips: assessing the impact of plain packaging 1 year postimplementation
Meghan Zacher, Megan Bayly, Emily Brennan, Joanne Dono, Caroline Miller, Sarah Durkin, Michelle Scollo, Melanie Wakefield

Finally, there is a research letter. Guess who that's from?
Did smokers shift from small mixed businesses to discount outlets following the introduction of plain packaging in Australia? A national cross-sectional survey
Michelle Scollo, Kerri Coomber, Meghan Zacher, Melanie Wakefield

All this can be found in the special supplement that has been put together by, er, Melanie Wakefield and Michello Scollo.

It's a small world, the plain packaging research community isn't it? One might almost call it a closed shop of like-minded activist-researchers. Melanie Wakefield, in particular, has been fighting to get cigarettes in plain packs for over a decade. Lord knows how many research grants she has pulled in over the years, but she's going to look pretty silly if people notice it's not working, hence today's release.

The other thing the articles have in common is that none of them—not one—looks at adult smoking prevalence, underage smoking prevalence or cigarette sales since plain packaging was introduced. Most of them are not new—they are reprints or remakes of previous efforts—but none of them look at the one thing that plain packaging was designed to do—prevent young people taking up smoking.

After more than two years, that's pretty suspicious, but it's hardly surprising since the rate of underage smoking rose between 2010 and 2013 and tobacco sales rose in the first year of plain packaging. Faced with this dilemma, Wakefield et al. ignore peer-reviewed evidence that shows that plain packaging doesn't work in the real world in favour of rehashing their own tired old surveys and focus groups which boil down to asking people if they like looking at pictures of gangrenous feet ("they don't! Plain packaging works!"). Even then, the best they can manage is to say that plain packaging has "prompted smokers to think about quitting". Never mind the fact that they're not actually quitting.

It's pathetic, but it's enough to get a report in the Guardian. Mind you, that's also hardly surprising when you consider that the author of the Guardian article is freelance journalist Melissa Davey who we last came across in September when she ran a similarly credulous article about plain packaging. She is currently doing a Masters in 'public health' at the home of Melanie Wakefield and Simon Chapman, Sydney University.

A small world indeed.


Christopher Snowdon said...

Admittedly it didn't (doesn't) work. "THE percentage of smokers purchasing cigarettes from convenience
stores did not fall after plain packaging was introduced and there was
no indication of an increase in overseas, online or duty-free purchases."

Christopher Snowdon said...

I tried my hardest to get an answer to if it had reduced youth take-up, but nobody give me any evidence. What a sad bunch of backpatters

Christopher Snowdon said...

The plain packs cottage industry could also be described as a propaganda mill. This fraud needs to be exposed.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Good job, Chris.

So the “evidence” on plain packaging in question is dominated by two long-time antismoking activists, Scollo and Wakefield. At best it’s fifth-rate, featherweight “research” that doesn’t particularly go
anywhere, and, as usual, funded by the hapless taxpayer.

But not to worry. Enter antismoker wanker-in-chief, the professional
fear and hate-monger, Simon Crapman. The job of his propaganda eminence, Captain Pipsqueak, is to take nothing and make it seem like not only something but something incredibly important. According to Crapman, this wonky antismoking “research” conducted by his antismoking protégés is transformed into “A Cluster Bomb of New Research Explodes Tobacco Industry Lies
About Plain Packs”

So in that one header does Crapman fraudulently advance the idea of “overwhelming evidence” for plain packs and that it [again] exposes the tobacco industry as a “liar”…… and this coming from Crapman, the liar extraordinaire with a “god complex”.

It’s all so pitiful. But this is what’s been going on in universities for years and what forms the basis for government policy. Bear in
mind that the government is committed to the word of these lying zealots because it will then get their full, raucous support for ever-increasing extortionate taxes on tobacco.