Intended for healthcare professionals


Australia sees large fall in smoking after introduction of standardised packs

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 17 July 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4689

Re: Australia sees large fall in smoking after introduction of standardised packs

Your tobacco industry correspondent G Roca is either poorly informed or engaging in the sort of misleading spin the world has witnessed from that industry for over 50 years. The fall recorded in smoking prevalence between the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2010 and 2013 national surveys was the biggest percentage fall (15.5%) ever recorded since the surveys commenced in 1991 (see Figure). In the period between the two surveys, the introduction of plain packaging (Dec 2012) was the only standout variable beyond the normal automatic Consumer Price Index adjustments to tobacco tax and the raft of other tobacco control measures (campaigns, smoke free policies etc) that have been in place for many years.

There had been an extraordinary 25% tobacco tax increase in early May 2010, but the first 5 months impact of that rise coincided with the data collection period (April 29- September 14 2010) for the previous AIHW survey, published in 2011, and so would have influenced that earlier figure.

There was a further extra tobacco 12.5% tax increase in December 2013. But data collection for the 2011-2013 AIHW report occurred between July 31 and December 1, 2013 the day an extra 12.5% tobacco tax was introduced. It could therefore have not influenced the 2013 data, showing the fall.

Moreover, the Australian Treasury has reported that customs and excise receipts for 2013 (post plain packs) were 3.4% below those for 2012 (pre plain packs). (1)

Citi, the global market investment advisors, were in no doubt about the meaning of the data, saying it provided “the best data” to support the British government’s imminent decision to legislate plain packs and that the data would “substantially undermine” the tobacco industry’s argument that there was no good evidence that plain packaging would achieve its stated aims. (2)


1. Australian Government. Department of Health. Tobacco Key facts and figures July 17 2014.

2. Citi Research Equities. Tobacco - Australia data provides ammunition for plain packaging elsewhere. 2014 Jul 17.

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 August 2014
Simon Chapman AO
School of Public Health
University of Sydney 2006 Australia