Thursday 1 June 2017

Australian smoking rate has flatlined since 2013

Image courtesy of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

When plain packaging came into full force in the UK two weeks ago, anti-smoking campaigners claimed that it would somehow lead to 300,000 fewer smokers in the first twelve months. This figure was essentially plucked out of thin air. Only one country has had plain packaging in force for more than a year. That country is Australia and since we know that cigarette sales rose in the first year, it seems unlikely that the smoking rate fell at the same time.

Australian smoking prevalence statistics are not very helpful if you want a year on year comparison. Nationwide statistics are only collected every three years and plain packaging occurred at the back end of the three year period of 2010-13.

When the figures for 2010-13 were published in 2014, plain pack campaigners pretended that there had been a steep fall thanks to plain packaging. Mike Daube falsely claimed that the 'decline in smoking is really dramatic and exceptionally encouraging – even speeding up' and the risible Simon Chapman said that plain packaging was 'like finding a vaccine that works very well against lung cancer'.

This was the sheerest nonsense. The smoking rate fell at much the same rate as it had been falling for years and it was impossible to tell whether it had risen, dropped or stayed the same since plain packaging was introduced in December 2012.

Today, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released its figures for 2013-16, the first full three year period since plain packaging was introduced. You won't hear the 'public health' lobby shouting about them because the figures show that...

12.2% of people aged 14 or over were daily smokers in 2016. While smoking rates have been on a long-term downward trend, for the first time in over two decades, the daily smoking rate did not significantly decline over the most recent 3 year period (2013 to 2016).

Tobacco taxes are incredibly punitive in Australia, with increases of 12.5% being implemented every year since plain packaging was introduced in a desperate attempt to reduce smoking prevalence. A statistically insignificant drop in the smoking rate from 12.8% to 12.2% is not what was promised when these tax rises were combined with the, er, 'vaccine for lung cancer' of plain packaging.

The graph below comes from Sinclair Davidson of RMIT University (who explains the tricks used by 'public health' campaigners to retrospectively justify plain packaging in the video at the bottom of this post).

The frenzy of anti-smoking activity fanaticism has done nothing except push smokers onto the black market, as was predicted by the reality-based community. 
We saw a similar flatlining of the smoking rate in the UK after the smoking ban ushered in a wave of extremist policies. Between 2007 and 2012, the smoking rate barely budged. However, unlike Australia, Britain did not ban e-cigarettes and there has been a significant fall in smoking prevalence since vaping became popular in 2013.

We don't have the British figures for 2016 yet, but between 2012 and 2015 the rate fell from 20.4% to 17.8%, a drop of 2.6 percentage points. In Australia, by contrast, the last three year period saw a statistically insignificant drop of just 0.6 percentage points.

If the 'public health' industry was even slightly evidence-based, Australia would have legalised vaping and Britain would have never bothered with plain packaging. But is not evidence-based. It is a cult, and the chief turnip on the turnip farm has already come up with his pathetic excuses, which amount to 'give us more money'...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, tobacco control is not a results-driven business.

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