Row erupts over effect of plain packaging on smoking ratesBMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e1269 (Published 20 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1269
All rapid responses
Christopher Snowdon’s report on plain packaging for the Adam Smith Institute (http://t.co/VYh5DZfZ) is clearly a mélange of spurious rubbish. What is not quite so clear is whether it is spurious rubbish funded by big tobacco. Snowdon’s website used to have a notice saying he was not funded by the tobacco industry (see screen shot here http://twitpic.com/8mqgbw) but prior to the publication of his report for reasons which were not explained this has been taken down. His report contains no statement about the funding of the report and he has ignored my direct question about this asked on Twitter. However, when questioned about the independence of his report on Radio 4’s Today programme (http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9697000/9697806.stm), Snowdon acknowledged that the Adam Smith Institute receives “less than 3% of its turnover” from tobacco companies and extended the following invitation to readers: “If you want to disregard the report’s finding on that basis then go ahead”.
On page 6 of the report, Snowdon says that “Plain packaging is not a health policy is [sic] any recognisable sense. It neither informs nor educates. On the contrary, it limits information” being given to smokers. But six pages later (p12) he writes "Cigarette packs do not provide information, they do not make claims and they do not seek to persuade." Please make up your mind Mr Snowdon.
He argues that plain packs will make counterfeiting easier. This argument assumes that plain packaging means packs will be look like plain cardboard boxes. In fact they will have full colour graphic warnings and be no less difficult or easy to forge than current cigarette packs, which as this Hong Kong based counterfeiter told an Australian TV reporter are “100% easy” to counterfeit. (http://t.co/5xHUzSgW)
If prices fall because smokers will not pay premium prices for packs that look the same (except for brand names) as budget brands, governments can easily increase tobacco tax and force retail prices up, and they regularly do now.
The accuracy of Snowdon’s research might be judged by this. He writes that I “co-founded” BUGA UP, the Australian anti-tobacco graffiti group. This is news to me and all those who were in BUGA UP. I founded a group called MOP UP . And he calls himself “an historian”.
The tobacco industry are terrified of plain packs and their frenzied global actions to challenge it via courts, tribunals and by reports like this speak volumes about what they fear it will do to the future of their deadly business. Bring it on!
1. Chapman S. A David and Goliath story: tobacco advertising in Australia. BMJ 1980;281:1187 90.
Competing interests: No competing interests