March 24, 2014

Researchers Find No Evidence Plain Packaging ‘Experiment’ Has Cut Smoking

The plain packaging experiment in Australia has not deterred young smokers, professors from the Department of Economics at Zurich University and the University of Saarland found in a report released today, while newly released industry sales data show that tobacco sales have actually increased since the introduction of plain packaging.

The study undertook a statistical analysis of smoking prevalence data for Australians aged 14-17 years old. It used the same data chosen by anti-smoking groups, as well as techniques that were biased in favour of finding evidence of a significant effect of plain packaging on reducing youth smoking, but as the study concludes, “no such evidence has been discovered”.  

Professor Wolf and Professor Kaul explained: “We used statistical methodology that gave every possible leeway for detecting a possible plain packaging effect. Nevertheless, the data does not support any evidence of an actual effect of the Australian Plain Packaging Act on smoking prevalence of minors.”

In addition, newly released industry data now shows that legal tobacco sales actually rose incrementally by 59 million cigarettes in the first year plain packaging was introduced. This increase reversed the long-term decline of legal sales volumes in the country since before 2009.  

Plain packaging in Australia has not reduced smoking rates and has had no impact on youth smoking prevalence. Consumers aren’t smoking less, they are just buying cheaper alternatives like roll-your-own cigarettes or turning to branded packs available on the black market.