back to article Why a plain packaging U-turn from UK.gov could cost £3bn a year

According to friendly "leaks" passed to newspapers overnight, the government may force cigarette manufacturers to sell their wares in plain packaging after yet another review, despite rejecting the policy earlier this year. But the gambit is unlikely to withstand the scrutiny of the Chancellor. Why? Plain packaging legislation …

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  1. Davidcro

    " according to a report commissioned by cigarette-makers by KPMG (PDF)"

    And the result is a surprise?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So what

      Ok so Australians can be a bit over zealous sometimes.

      But

      I don't see the Aussies going back on the policy do you?

      Even if it costs them money.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Aussies have stated that plain packaging is not to STOP existing smokers or get them to give up, it is to make cigarettes less inviting and appealing to the younger generations and to stop them taking up the habit.

      And the facts show, it is working.

      So they are not losing money they already get, they are reducing future income.

      It is the cigarette companies that are lobbying furiously because they know that their future is based entirely in getting young people into the habit.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bring on the black market ciggies!

  3. phuzz Silver badge
    Holmes

    Hmmm

    So changing the packaging that an addictive drug comes in doesn't make people any less addicted to it?

    Blimey, never saw that one coming.

    1. vagabondo

      Re: Hmmm

      I don't think that the prime aim of plain packaging is to effect a change to addicts (they are killing themselves off anyway), but to remove the "designer label" contribution from the promotion of a harmful, addictive substance to upcoming generations.

      This "study" is meaningless. To see if there was any meaningful change the comparison should be between the proportion of smokers under the age of e.g. 25 before plain packaging, with the proportion after 5-10 years. If the measurement is to be in fiscal terms then the cost of tobacco related disease and currency export has to be balanced with the value of tobacco tax to the treasury.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        The price hikes are aimed at stopping people starting too. Addicts will keep paying no matter how much it hurts.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm

        " If the measurement is to be in fiscal terms then the cost of tobacco related disease and currency export has to be balanced with the value of tobacco tax to the treasury."

        In which case, there's a few more things to take into account. My starting point is that in the UK we have insufficient housing that leads to high prices and speculative booms, we have overstretched public services that can't cope with demand, inadequate infrastructure & transport for the current rising population level, old buzzards who are living longer and longer putting increasing demands on the NHS despite no longer being part of the productive economy, and a welfare state struggling to cope with said old buzzards who (in aggregate) didn't save to provide for their old age and expect the state (that also didn't accrue) to pay for them. And even for the working age, there's insufficient jobs to go round.

        Put that lot into the equation, and fags are a miracle cure for the economy, because their general impact is modest during most of the smoker's working life, the diseases tend to come on suddenly, have a very high mortality rate and often low treatability. So fewer unfunded pensions to pay, fewer winter fuel payments, fewer geriatric healthcare bills, a few more jobs for the younger people, reduced demand on services, infrastructure and housing. What's not to like?

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      No it doesn't. That isn't the intention of it. The intention is that it makes them less attractive to young people so they won't take up the habit. The ban hasn't been in place long enough to see if that will work or not. However the tobacco companies think it is a bad idea, so that almost certainly means it is a good idea.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        Whether it makes them less attractive or not to young people, it certainly makes them less accessible. Imagine you try to buy a pack:

        - I'd like a packet of cigarettes please

        - Which ones?

        - (staring at huge cabinet with no markings and all packets hidden behind panels). Hmmmmmm...

        At least when you bought your first beer you could point and say 'that one'

        1. John 48

          Re: Hmmm

          Yup, so much simpler for the youngsters to go for one of the nice branded duty free packs available from every street corner, via a black market created by the perfect and unintended co-operation of existing smokers and HM Gov!

      2. Don Jefe

        Re: Hmmm

        I smoke 2+ packs a day of the same brand of cigarette as the first cigarette I ever smoked. Over all the decades since I've given exactly zero shits about the package they came in. If there was a way to care less than zero that's how much I would care.

        When I lived in Canada I used to collect all the graphic warnings and stick them to the refrigerator because I wanted the whole set. The only time the packaging has had any relevance at all is if I'm in a foreign country where I don't speak the language. I just show the clerk what the pack looks like.

        I didn't start smoking because of the packaging. That's always been the biggest load of shit I've ever heard. Does any significant portion of the population buy their regular consumables based on packaging? No. I buy the brand of toilet paper that my ass likes and I buy the brand of toothpaste my mouth likes and I buy the brand of bourbon my wife hates.

        Cigarettes fall into the same category as any commodity consumable which is widely available and nobody knows anything about nor is any information provided about. From tampons to cologne to toothpaste to gasoline to crayons to dish soap and cigarettes the overwhelming majority of people buy the same brand as their parents (my parents didn't smoke. I started smoking the same brand the girl I wanted to sleep with smoked) and if that's not available it's a crap shoot. You buy a random product based on some wildely illogical premise you created on the fly and if it doesn't work as desired you buy something else.

        Its been pretty well established that smokers will be smokers if parents don't step in and put a stop to it. Smoking decline has stopped in most countries and is on the upswing in some demographics. Like so very many other things, smoking falls under the parenting heading, nothing else. Nobody really likes that though. It's got to be someone else's fault, parents are as bad as banks at assuming responsibility.

  4. Tom 35 Silver badge

    "Plain packaging legislation is reckoned to have lost the Australian Treasury A$1bn ($946m, £578m) in tax revenue in its first six months, according to a report commissioned by cigarette-makers by KPMG (PDF), as smokers turn to fake, untaxed brands."

    So how is this about plain packaging and not about people buying untaxed cheaper cigarettes?

    If they still had the fancy gold foil packages people would still buy the taxed ones?

    "a report commissioned by cigarette-makers oh, never mind that explains it.

    1. theblackhand

      "So how is this about plain packaging and not about people buying untaxed cheaper cigarettes?"

      It's about spotting untaxed cigarettes - if all the packs look the same do you think the corner shop is going to sell the taxed cigarettes and make10%-20% of the revenue or do you think they will stock the cheap imports and make 70% of the revenue.

      - The cigarette companies still make their money.

      - The retailer makes more money.

      - The customer pays the same or less.

      - The government misses out.

      IMHO stopping people smoking is now down to time - it has become an undesirable social activity by being forced outside and changing packaging is unlikely to make a smoker quit if large health warnings and graphic pictures has not altered their behaviour. Not that it will stop silly political point scoring....

      1. vagabondo

        Re: all the packs look the same

        >> It's about spotting untaxed cigarettes - if all the packs look the same

        According to the article the packs do not look the same. The untaxed packs have no health warning and/or are branded. So this should make them easier to spot.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: all the packs look the same

          In the UK, I gather that fake label rolling tobacco exists but the untaxed cigarettes are usually the legitimate manufacturer's product, shipped overseas (at least the paperwork says so) to a market where it isn't taxed, then falling instead into the hands of British smokers who can't believe their good luck.

          Maybe not every legitimate manufacturer - I think there are several, not as many as there are brands. It is kind of Left Twix, Right Twix.

          So, anyway, Australian cigarette pirates are ripping off the customer, in comparison.

      2. GrumpyOldBloke

        > it has become an undesirable social activity by being forced outside

        But by standing around outside you have gone back to the bike sheds / cool approach. It is almost impossible to walk down a street in any commercial district here without incurring second hand cigarette smoke. This of course also applies to school kids trying to walk to and from school. The stupidity of the standing around outside laws rather than internal air quality rules ensures that the next generation of smokers is still reachable by the cigarette companies - and we see this in smoking statistics for young people. The cigarette companies now need to focus on the attractiveness of the cancer stick rather than the packet it came in knowing that their undead customers are their greatest asset in reaching their future customers.

        1. -tim
          Flame

          Advertising in the air

          The tobacco companies have already made use of "standing around is advertising". They add compounds that keep the smoke lower to help remind other smokers they need to light up.

          1. Don Jefe

            Re: Advertising in the air

            They add compounds to keep the smoke lower to remind others to smoke? What??? That's dumbest fucking thing I've heard in months. Obviously you aren't a smoker and know nothing about the subject or addiction in general.

            A smoker is reminded they need to smoke by the fact they are awake. I've been 60' underwater in full dive gear trying to figure out how to smoke while submerged. You sure as hell don't need 'smoke engineers' on staff, that's a ridiculously stupid waste of money. The smoke hangs like it does because it's heavy in particulate content. Set a rolled up newspaper on fire, it'll do the same thing.

            You're obviously anti-smoking, that's cool and I respect that. But you're driving your cause backwards when you say incredibly dumb things like that. Your statement is easy to falsify and you lose all credibility on the subject if you fail the basics that hard.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "But by standing around outside you have gone back to the bike sheds / cool approach. It is almost impossible to walk down a street in any commercial district here without incurring second hand cigarette smoke."

          This is one of the reasons California made it illegal to smoke within X yards of a doorway.

          Technically it's illegal in the UK to smoke outside where the smoke can reenter a building, but I've yet to see it enforced. People who live near pubs and restaurants would be pretty happy if they were.

      3. Dagg
        Big Brother

        It's about new smokers

        It is not so much about stopping the existing smokers, it much more about stopping new smokers.

        Who cares if the current smokers kill themselves, they are a lost cause, they already have the emphysema and the cancer and even if they stop in most cases it is probably too late!

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "If all the packs look the same do you think the corner shop is going to sell the taxed cigarettes and make10%-20% of the revenue or do you think they will stock the cheap imports and make 70% of the revenue."

        Some years ago in New Zealand a corner shop owner ("dairy" in NZ parlance) was caught selling individual cigarettes to schoolkids. The resulting fines shut the shop down. I'd heard of similar cases in Australia in the sae period.

        I'd imagine those caught selling untaxed cigarettes would face similar penalties. A containerload of smuggled cigarettes can result in seriously _long_ jail terms in both countries (and has!). They do have borders which are easier to police than the UK's though.

    2. DiViDeD Silver badge

      "If they still had the fancy gold foil packages people would still buy the taxed ones?"

      Yes they would. There was a lot of opposition from smokers when plain packaging was introduced. People liked their old packets. Some companies sprang up, selling slipover covers for standard ciggie packs with logos, pretty girls, cute kittens, etc printed on them. These were very quickly deemed illegal (Hell, I even got hassled by a ranger because my ciggies are in an old style silver cigarette case!).

      Smokers would hang on to the packets they'd bought overseas and keep refilling them till they fell apart.

      Then there'd be the conversation with the 'bloke in the pub' and suddenly people who would never have considered buying black market ciggies were instant criminals. Add the fact that dodgy ciggies are both dead easy to get hold of, once you start looking, and that they are way cheaper than the $20 a packet you pay in the shop, and the few 'early adopters' start telling their mates how they can save loads of dosh buying from that bloke in Newtown.

      Seriously, left to themselves, most of those people wouldn't have considered the black market otherwise, or at least not until the price was up in the 30s.

      It's a bit like the pirate music world. Make it hard for people to get what they want, and more of them will find another way to get it.

  5. linicks

    Being a smoker, albeit a conscientious one (i.e ban smoking in restaurants, cinema's, etc. yes, I agree, but working man pubs? [if any are left]) all the Government do by the huge tax is send people into debt.

    Changing the packaging will not make a difference to smokers.

    Of course, the easy way is to ban smoking all together, but that will lead to millions of lost tax revenue and, of course, an underground market whereby smokers get the fags anyway ~ even if it's a wonga type mark-up.

    So, the Government is stuffed. They need people to smoke to get the tax, yet they also need to show that they are effectively trying to stop it.

    Doesn't work, and never will do.

    P.S. In my youth as an appreciate in Pompey Dockyard, the matelots used to be issued 200 'blue liners' a week, and often these 200 fags were used as 'payment' if you could do them a favour (like let them off fire watch duty early, or repair a cracked motorbike frame etc.)

    1. frank ly Silver badge
      Happy

      " In my youth as an appreciate ..."

      I'm sure you appreciated the experience.

    2. JP19

      "So, the Government is stuffed. They need people to smoke to get the tax, yet they also need to show that they are effectively trying to stop it."

      They don't need to show they are trying to stop it.

      Politicians mostly make up what they think the need to do hoping their lies and bullshit can convince enough voters to allow them to keep on doing it.

      I sure as hell never asked the government to tell me what to do.

    3. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Navy Cut

      "P.S. In my youth as an appreciate in Pompey Dockyard, the matelots used to be issued 200 'blue liners' a week, "

      I was, for a short time (discharge by purchase (no, not THAT)) employed by her Maj too be a trainee matelot.

      At the age of 17 I was bringing home orders for cigs and baccy -- I was too young for the 'tot' ration so I got sweets instead.

  6. Jess--

    I thought the Australian change in packaging also coincided with a massive increase in tax on cigarettes.

    with that in mind it may be worth remembering that other factors than a change in packaging could be leading to an increase in imported cigarettes

    1. Tim Starling

      > I thought the Australian change in packaging also coincided with a massive increase in tax on cigarettes.

      No, it didn't, see page 20 of the KPMG report.

    2. dan1980

      re: @Jess--

      Good critical thinking but not actually correct in the instance. The massive hike (25%) was in 2010. Since then, it has been pretty much in step with CPI.

      Going into the election, Kevin Rudd planned to increase the tax by 12.5% each year for the next your years (i.e. the government term). I have a feeling that was to be 12.5% on top of CPI increases but can't recall. That was slated to start towards the end of this year but I don't know if the LNP are going ahead with it.

      What was done at that time was to sharply limit the duty-free allowance to 50 cigarettes (down from 250). Whether that had a noticeable impact I can't say.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I won't purposely buy fake or black market cigarettes

    because I once had a pack of 10 B&H from my local garage that I can only conclude were fakes, where smoking one cig hit my lungs so harshly it was like smoking 10 at once. I'm occasional smoker, average one or two a day, eg. some days none, others up to 4.

    When I got round to smoking a second from the aforementioned pack I got halfway through and threw it and the pack away because the smoke was so acrid, what else could I have really done, going back and saying "Excuse me, these fine cigarettes what I purchased from you not half a day ago appear to be killing me..." didn't seem appropriate.

    E-cigs look interesting though, I'll be trying one of those out one day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I won't purposely buy fake or black market cigarettes

      You should have sent the pack to the manufacturer and told them where you bought it if my Marlboro experience is anything to go by. They sent me 4x20 for the 1x19 I had sent them. And an apology. Not sure if they assumed it was actually their fault, I did tell them I thought they were counterfeit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I won't purposely buy fake or black market cigarettes

      because I once had a pack of 10 B&H from my local garage that I can only conclude were fakes, where smoking one cig hit my lungs so harshly it was like smoking 10 at once. I'm occasional smoker, average one or two a day, eg. some days none, others up to 4.

      When I got round to smoking a second from the aforementioned pack I got halfway through and threw it and the pack away because the smoke was so acrid, what else could I have really done, going back and saying "Excuse me, these fine cigarettes what I purchased from you not half a day ago appear to be killing me..." didn't seem appropriate.

      If you think the chemicals they put in regular cigarettes are bad wait until you see what nasties would've been in those fake ones you smoked. Your essentially smoking a bin liner....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I won't purposely buy fake or black market cigarettes

        "If you think the chemicals they put in regular cigarettes are bad wait until you see what nasties would've been in those fake ones you smoked. Your essentially smoking a bin liner...."

        That's precicely why I binned em, legitimate cigarette manufacturers don't want to kill off their customers (too quickly) whereas counterfeitters will use any (cheap) means necessary to produce a visual copy and don't care what goes into the fakes.

        Also I occasionally worry about fake vodka on the market, I don't buy from corner shops that are likely to buy from a random white van man, but buying from a supermarket is not always a guarantee it's genuine.

  8. John 98

    Could try harder

    Strange that the fag firms, with their touching concern for the taxpayer's pocket, don't offer some solution - perhaps the "plain packets" could contain a rifd or security strip like a bank note? And of course a new levy on their profits linked to the increased shortfall might stimulate their ingenuity.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Could try harder

      I'm sure they would if governments would lower the minimum sales prices accordingly. It's insane to expect any company to pay more to deal with arbitrary laws, no matter what industry it is.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course if safer Japanese-style filters and production methods were allowed in the west - rather than being outright banned because they "promote smoking" - none of this would be necessary.

    Google the japanese smoking paradox. Enlightening stuff.

    And no, I don't smoke.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now now, that would deprive a large section of the population the enjoyment they get from self-righteously insisting others live as they do - 'for their own good'.

  10. Arachnoid

    So make it in a plain box

    Then just design and sell a steel cigarette case in company logo that takes a 20 pack

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: So make it in a plain box

      They're not legal either.

      1. Soap Distant

        Re: So make it in a plain box

        @Adam 1

        So are cigarette cases illegal in Oz? Or they're proposing this also as part of the measures?

        1. Tac Eht Xilef

          Re: So make it in a plain box

          "So are cigarette cases illegal in Oz?"

          No - just ones that contain or mimic any tobacco product branding or advertisements. Oh, and you can't give away a 'free gift' with a cigarette purchase, or sell cigarettes with the plain packaging covered up.

          (an Australian smoker who's only problem with the legislation is the government's hypocrisy in continuing to pocket the sweet, sweet tax money. Ban or ban not, there is no try...)

  11. Soap Distant

    I wouldn't be surprised...

    If there wasn't a resurgence in fancy cigarette cases being sold.

    SD

    1. MrDamage

      Re: I wouldn't be surprised...

      Most of the women I know in Oz who smoke have bought ciggy cases, either plain or fancy.

      Funnily enough, out of all the of the various horrendous pics they have on our ciggy packs, its just "Kevin the lung cancer guy" that they want to avoid looking at. Mangled feet, dodgy mouths, tumouts and clogged arteries are all fine.

    2. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: I wouldn't be surprised...

      Hmm, how about using an old baccy tin?

      (along with some papers, card, bag etc.)

  12. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Quite fittingly, as Manchester has produced many iconic smokers over the years: Bet Lynch, Mark E Smith and Anthony Burgess.

    Oh, FFS as if everyone in Manchester smokes… In the 19th booze was too expensive so Saturdays we all queued up for us laudanum. Good fer kids as well, kept 'em quiet and out of danger under them looms.

  13. dan1980
    Thumb Down

    Lies, damned lies . . . and what was the other one again?

    Where to start?

    First - the primary aim of plain packaging is not to directly cut down on current usage, it is to prevent new smokers starting up. Whether or not that will be effective is another question but the benefits of this measure, like those before, will be long term and can only be assessed long term.

    Second - 154% is just one figure from the report, dealing with one form of illicit tobacco, and represents an increase from 0.5% to 2%. I would suggest the author actually READ the report next time. The actual increase in total illicit tobacco use is 13%. In 2012, illicit tobacco (in all forms) accounted for 12.8% of the market. In 2013, it was 13.3% - an increase of 0.5 percentage points.

    Third - $1bn? No. No, no, no. The ENTIRE illicit cigarette market in 2013 would have, if purchased legally instead, generated $1bn in excise. In 2012, that number was ~$900m. So, between 2012 and 2013, the change meant an ESTIMATED loss of ~$100m*.

    Finally, as the author notes, the study was commissioned by cigarette companies. If, as the author says, opinion polls are not the finest source of information, I would suggest that studies funded by cigarette companies should be treated just as sceptically. Further, it is interesting (to me) to note that several key bits of evidence for the conclusion that illicit sales have jumped are . . . surveys! One of those had a sample size of just 2100 people.

    * - Excise increased 2.4% between these two periods but that's not enough to make too much difference and is reflected in the $100m. Actual difference is $120m, but $20m of that is accounted for by the excise increase - i.e. if 2012 volumes were matched with 2013 excise prices.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Lies, damned lies . . . and what was the other one again?

      It's always really easy to tell when laws are passed with absolutely no knowledge of the people they are aimed at. Nobody goes up to a retailer and selects their first cigarettes after a review of packaging: "I really like the traditional look that the narrow serif fonts create on this package. Combined with the use of flat colors and creative framing of white space with simple linear shapes makes this the brand for me ".

      The fact some people think that's how smoking works is hilarious to me. Every smoker has a 'getting started' story and you won't find any who just strolled into a store with the intention of trying a cigarette then deciding which cigarette to choose based on the package. Once you're at the purchasing your own stage you've already been smoking and you're going to buy what you've already been smoking.

      When little Timmy gets busted smoking and rats out the 7-11 clerk it's just because he didn't want to rat out his buddies or your nutty sister/brother, etc... Timmy's been smoking for a while before you ever catch him and he's smoking what someone you know is giving/getting for him. It has exactly nothing to do with the package. The fact you think it does means you've just been out maneuvered by a kid and the kid knows it. The kid is still smoking too. He's just more careful.

      1. dan1980

        Re: Lies, damned lies . . . and what was the other one again?

        @Don Jefe . . .

        Yes and no. Well, that's my belief anyway.

        This is going to be a long one. I respect you and don't disagree lightly . . .

        I think you might be misconstruing the idea. I don't think people are suggesting that young people walking into the corner store, perusing the packets and selecting a brand they feel represents them is how smoking starts.

        I believe the idea is that cigarettes were once seen as glamorous and the plain-packaging laws are the latest step in a long effort to reduce that attractiveness - one that started way back in the early 70s, when the US Surgeon General released extensive reports on the health hazards of smoking.

        Since that time, there has been a gradual process going on with the aim of reducing smoking in Australia. It has combined information, in the form of health warnings, campaigns, etc...; restricting smoking advertising; funding 'quit' programs, subsidising medical treatments; restricting smoking in public areas and, of course, raising fat wads of cash through excise and duty increases.

        Over the course of this process, the number of smokers has steadily declined. It's certainly possible that the numbers would have declined anyway, though I feel that to be a bit of a stretch. It would be easier to argue that any given regulation/restriction/law was ineffective but each new measure has most certainly been consistent with the stated aim of the Australian Federal Government, which is to reduce smoking levels in Australia.

        Back to the core argument, on the effectiveness of plain packaging, it has to been seen as part of the larger process to remove the visibility of smoking, reducing the 'passive' advertising.

        It may be down to an ignorance of Australian laws (and I freely confess an equal, if not greater, ignorance of US, Canadian and UK laws) but the scenario you are ridiculing is a straw-man. Why? because two years prior to the plain-packaging legislation being passed, laws were enacted requiring all cigarettes and tobacco to be placed out of site at the point-of-sale - usually implemented with large, plain cabinets behind the register.

        Plain-packaging laws are just a logical extension of the progressive banning of all cigarette advertising, and the effect is not expected to be drastic but cumulative with previous efforts. The aim is to stop smoking being 'around' so that it is not seen as normal or socially acceptable*.

        Mate, I pretty much agree with you on everything before even reading your posts - you are older, wiser and more worldly** than I am - but I can tell you without the slightest bit of exaggeration that the packaging most definitely made a difference to me.

        When I started smoking, my first cigarettes were Winfield 'Reds'^, shared with friends. Once I started buying my own, I bought B&H. Why? Because I thought they were classier. Note that I said "were", not "looked". Later, as a 'matured' into a young adult, I moved to Stuyvesants. Why? Because I felt they were a bit more mature, a bit cooler. More understated - no need for flashy gold 'look: I'm smoking B&H here' - instead a utilitarian soft-pack with simple style.

        You might think I am making this up but I am not. I wince a bit at the memory of my younger-self but that is the naiveté of youth.

        The point is not that I smoked because of the packaging, the point is that that packaging is advertising and advertising is effective. Not on everyone, but certainly more so on younger people. The Australian government has a policy of banning cigarette advertising and the move to plain-packaging is wholly consistent with that long-running, bipartisan, publicly-supported policy.

        Anti-smoking measures have increased over the years, while at the same time smoking rates have decreased. They are not simply coincidental, so the question becomes: which is the cause and which is the outcome? It could be plausibly argued that since the detrimental nature of cigarettes became known, smoking has decreased and therefore public support for anti-smoking measures has increased, leading to more and stricter anti-smoking measures. The Australian government largely takes the opposite stance, that the anti-smoking measures caused the decrease in smoking.

        There are studies and survey and reports and graphs and endless opinions supporting both sides of that. I would note that I have not seen a study claiming the measures are ineffective that has not been commissioned and funded by a smoking body. (Not to say they don't exist.) As the title of my original post implied - you can make such a report support either position depending on the data you use and how you present and weight it.

        For my part, I believe it is both together. I believe anti-smoking measures, overall, have been effective in reducing smoking. That reduction in the smoking population then means there is more public support for further action to be taken. That may lead to some actions that don't produce a statistically significant effect and are implemented based more on that public support than on hard numbers.

        I better leave it at that : )

        * - I am not saying the aim is a noble one or even a practical one, but that is the aim and, when viewed in that light, the plain-packaging laws are consistent with that aim.

        ** - Though not more wordy.

        ^ - 16mg - we were men.

        1. JP19

          Re: Lies, damned lies . . . and what was the other one again?

          "once seen as glamorous and the plain-packaging laws are the latest step "

          Or seen as rebellious and grown up in which case plain packaging and being told not to will make it all the more attractive particularly for the young.

  14. The BigYin

    "none pay tax or duty either".

    Well neither do banks, supermarkets, coffe shops, cyber-tat bazaars, newspapers, or the rich. And this Pimlico is worried about a few fags before the nation's health?

    Self-centered assmunch.

    1. The BigYin

      "Pimlico"? Bloody mobile phone autocorrect. Just take the entry you bastarding thing and no, don't add it to the dictionary.

  15. cracked
    Paris Hilton

    It's not what you say ...

    (bias admitted: I smoke. No, not near you).

    an opinion poll of Aussie smokers in which 80 per cent say they were more likely to give up

    I loved that "study" when I first saw it. And so good is it that the UK Gov fell for its charms ... Actually, the UK Gov falling for it, isn't too notable either way, is it?

    But anyway: Said survey was done very quickly after the "Playing Card" style packs were mandated. Said packs have just been updated, with arguebly slightly less gruesome pics (which must have upset the burjoining cigerette-case industry, which had seen a revival since it's demise in the 1940s).

    (I do hope we see Bryan again, though ... I am missing Bryan already)

    As Dear Old A says, in the article, the study informed us that 80% of smokers thought it more likely they would give up now the packs don't look like sweets (or possibly kinder eggs ... or maybe Barbie dolls? No, got to be iPhones then, right? No ... well I don't know then; I'm not a kid!).

    Anyway ... I consider giving up every morning, micro-seconds after coughing up most of what remains of my lungs; but I can't say the packaging has effected that, because I'm half-blind from the smoking induced cateracts.

    Now, I could spend a good few minutes setting out exactly why only people who are elected to the UK Parliament, are going to think that the Playing Cards have actually reduced anything at all (never mind smoking). But I won't, because if you can't work it out for yourself, then you probably are a ex-smoker who gave up because of the pictures on the packets or a member of the UK government ... and I don't see why you should waste any more of your taxpayers' contributions paying for someone to read my thoughts to you..

    What I will say is HOORAH! for the (gone) Aussie Government who have very helpfully - and f**king finally!! - created a black-market for ciggies (or durries, if you live near me ... no, I don't know why ...). I was stunned, when we arrived over here, that I was expected to go to a shop - with signs over the door and everything - to pay my additional taxes, when back 'ome that practice had died out along with school children working down the pit. So well done that Welsh woman with the annoying voice; this is saving me a small fortune.

    ... It's how you say it.

    1. A Dawson
      IT Angle

      Re: It's not what you say ...

      Durrie is actually dhurrie ... which you if you were to roll one up for storage will give you the answer you seek for the why of the slang term.

    2. dan1980

      Re: It's not what you say ...

      Do you live in western Sydney, good sir?

      Swap a Welsh woman for a Pom. I love this country : )

  16. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Will this be extended to alcohol?

    Will we see future Tory PMs clutching bottles labelled just "bubbles" ?

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: Will this be extended to alcohol?

      Or wraps of paper labelled 'powder'?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I live in asia

    where everyone smokes, its not socially unacceptable and you can smoke just about anywhere.

    I love seeing people visit from Europe and America and watch them spasm as they comprehend the reality of it all.

    This story only shows the duplicity of politicians. They want the vote of the anti-smokers, but they also want the cash from the smokers.

    As a smoker, you can treat like a human and i will give you my tax, but as it is - being labelled as social evil, i would do everything i can to avoid the UK government getting my tax from smoking (including leaving the country).

  18. Neil of Qld

    Most of the smokers I know who purchased cheap illegal tobacco did so because it was cheap not because of the packaging laws.

    The survey was paid for by tobacco companies who claim that plain packaging will not work.

    This is why they have spent millions trying to stop it

  19. paddy1991

    Read the disclaimer by KPMG.

    "This report on illicit tobacco consumption in Australia (“Report") has been prepared by KPMG LLP in accordance with specific terms of reference (“terms of reference") agreed between British American Tobacco Australia, Philip Morris Limited and Imperial Tobacco Australia Limited “the Addressees”, and KPMG LLP."

    Translation: We give you the answer (term of ref: focus on this, ignore that)

    KPMG produce the report.

    KPMG gets large FEE

    TheReg gives Big Tobacco the headline it wants.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      I've only let this comment through the net to point out that we're reporting the study. Readers are smart enough to find for themselves who commissioned the study - as you've just done. So congrats, have a cigar.

  20. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Loss of tax revenue?

    Potentially that's a good thing if people are smoking less. But if they're just buying bootleg packs instead, the revenue can be made up by having a £200/packet fine for anyone found in possesion of said bootlegs. (£500/packet for second offence) - and possibly a generous reward for anyone tipping off HMRC to anyone selling them

  21. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Flame

    The more this debate rumbles on ...

    if cigarettes are *that* bad for you, then why aren't they illegal ? After all we're told that cannabis (for example is illegal). And nobody has ever died from cannabis[1]. Yet thousands die EACH YEAR from tobacco.

    Just highlights the hypocrisy at the heart of our society. We don't make laws based on evidence and fact. We enforce someone elses morality on society.

    When the smoking ban came in, I did some quick calculations based on personal observation of how much less people were smoking, and how many had given up. Those figures equate to a loss to the treasury. ISTR it worked out north of £100 million a year. I couldn't factor in the increased costs to the treasury of (a) more people claiming their pensions and (b) older people needing more expensive healthcare, but I would hazard a guess it will be at least equal to the lost £100 million, and slowly growing (as more people giving up get older).

    So that's around £200 million a year the government needs to find from other sources. Hello non-smokers.

    I suspect if the government had been honest and said "are you prepared to pay 5% extra VAT[2] to plug the loss of revenue from tobacco", there would have been an awful lot less people so keen.

    Personally I smoke 3 hand rolled cigarettes a day. Not so fussed by the smoking ban, but it could have been made a bit more flexible.

    [1]Please don't post a link to that moronic coroner who recorded a death due to cannabis. No doctor believes him.

    [2]What ? Why do you think we've already been warned that VAT increase will never be reversed ?

  22. teebie

    So shiny

    When the ex-smoking MP Luciana Berger was interviewed about plain packaging, she was asked what had caused her to start smoking. I was interested what she would say next - if she said it wasn't the packaging she would harm her point, if she said it was because the packages looked nice she would come across as a bimbling simpleton.

    The quote she gave was "The packages I remember very clearly. They were very shiny...they were alluring". My confidence remains uninspired.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: So shiny

      And we all know that plain simple smooth undecorated products with rounded edges don't sell well.

      Surely if they wanted to discourage young people from buying cigs they would make the packets look more like a 1990s Motorola

  23. KayKay
    Flame

    They don't get it

    First of all, with smoking being banned in so many indoor places, smokers now congregate outside. And in Oz you can do that all year around. So kids get exposed to SEEING a lot more people smoking and enjoying it. In fact it looks like it's done by a LOT of people, not just say Dad and 2 visitors at home. This makes it a more socially acceptable activity.

    A few years before the plain packaging, they did something really stupid. They removed the (up to then compulsory) labeling about the nicotine content. The explanation was , young people would think it was ok to smoke as long as they smoked a weak one.

    The reality was, a lot of SMOKERS of strong cigarettes, say 16mg ones, were cutting down to weaker ones, 12s and maybe later 8s. Not giving up, but at least cutting down. Many gradually cut down by 2 levels. This reduces the level of addiction and makes it easier to gradually stop altogether. Then they took the numbers off. Now a kid starts up, he might start on 16s for all he knows, and get hooked in a week. If he names a brand and the shopkeeper asks which one? blue? green? grey? gold? the kid says "gold sounds best", Yeah guess what? that is the strongest.. Yes they still have COLOURS written on them, to HIDE the strength.

    Every tobacconist shop sells fakes and imports under the counter; you just have to ask for them when there's nobody else in the shop to hear. They're about half the price of the "real" ones. Most have more real tobacco and less fillers and chemicals than the "real", too. Some now come in proper looking "plain" packaging as well, the selling point being the price.

  24. Dropper

    Honest as..

    Yeah, sure, I'm going to give up possibly the most addictive substance available legally or otherwise not because I'm worried about my health, not because I'm worried my kids will become smokers, not because I don't want to pass secondhand smoke to those around me, not because I despise paying the taxes.. after all let's face it, despite all these reasons I'm still lighting up 20 a day.

    No I'm going to give up because I don't like white boxes.

    FFS really? People who had even the slightest inclination in believing that plain boxes would convince smokers to give up have to be this stupid on purpose..

    1. dan1980

      Re: Honest as..

      @Dropper - "FFS really?"

      No, not really.

      Reading the Aus Dept of Health website, the goals are to:

      • increase the noticeability, recall and impact of health warning messages;
      • reduce the ability of packaging to mislead consumers to believe that some products may be less harmful than others; and
      • reduce the attractiveness of the tobacco product, for both adults and children.

      While the article is right to highlight the non-definitive nature of survey results, it is interesting to note that during the implementation, a survey found that almost twice the number of smokers using plain packaging believed the cigarettes to be of lower quality than the previous year, compared with those still using branded packaging. A similar result was shown for satisfaction with the product - those using plain packaging were twice as dissatisfied as those with branded packets.

      Worth noting is that the report very clearly made the disclaimer that it could not determine if the result was due to the plain packaging itself or the now more prominent health warnings. You will note that that still fits the government's goals for the legislation.

      Your argument is a strawman - you ignore the fact that anti-smoking measures are multi-pronged as what works to encourage one person to quit, cut-down or never start, is not necessarily the same as the next person. That's why, in that same term of government, duties were raised, with plans for further, predictable raisies (12.5% over CPI from 2014); Internet advertising was banned; cigarettes must now be kept out of sight at counters; over $100m was allocated to address Indigenous smoking; bans on outside smoking were widened - including beaches, playgrounds and restaraunt seating; $135m was allocated for additional media campaigns; The duty-free allowance was significantly reduced; penalties for tobacco smuggling were increased; and Additional nicotine replacement therapies were approved for subsidy under the PBS.

      No one serious about reducing smoking believes any one measure will be broadly effective in isolation and that is why the government did not pass this legislation in the hopes that it, alone, would be some silver-bullet. The tobacco companies, of course, argue the case with that deliberately false assumption. But then those tobacco companies have recently tried to fight this legislation with two diametrically opposed reports - that the ban has not affected legal sales, but somehow has managed to increase the incidence of illicit tobacco use.

  25. mark 63 Silver badge

    Why do they always call it " money the treasury has lost"

    I call it "The treasury got slightly less protection money"

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