The Tobacco Control Industry is Losing More and More Credibility

Via Dick Puddlecote on Twitter and a tweet from Chris Snowden, I came across this study today:

It always seems to be difficult to get the date of these things, but here’s what it says at the very end:

This text taken from Agenda: A Journal of Policy Analysis and Reform Volume 21, Number 1, 2014, published November 2014 by ANU Press, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

So we can be sure that the study is very up to date and, since it has come from the Australian National University, it is likely to be free from undue bias.

Its title is:

The Plain Truth about Plain Packaging: An Econometric Analysis of the Australian 2011 Tobacco Plain Packaging Act.

It is not a long paper as these things go, so it is worth reading through quickly, even though it is full of mathematical gobbledegook. The complicated maths stuff at least seems to indicate that the authors knew what they were doing. Here is a quote from the Abstract:

Despite our econometric efforts, the data refused to yield any indication this policy has been successful; there is no empirical evidence to support the notion that the plain packaging policy has resulted in lower household expenditure on tobacco than there otherwise would have been.


I’ve bolded the words ‘household expenditure’ for a reason.

We must bear in mind that ‘smoking prevalence’ means ‘number of people who smoke’ rather than ‘amount smoked’.

The authors wanted to assess the efficacy of PP in reducing smoking prevalence, but were somewhat stymied by the fact that data on actual consumption are not in the public arena.

The challenge, however, is that ‘tobacco sales data are not publicly available’ (Department of Health 2014).”

And, of course, reasonably accurate figures about illicit consumption are very hard to assess. So the authors had to figure out a roundabout way to get at these figures.

Figures about expenditure on tobacco were readily available via the the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics). If the authors could establish the money spent by each household, they could assess whether or not that amount had increased or decreased per household. But another problem arose which was that statistical information about the number of household was only calculated every five years. The authors found a way around that problem, but admit that those figures are not as certain as they would have liked. Another problem, if they wanted to find out how many people were smoking was that they needed to know how many people there were per household. Again, they got around it by using data which showed that the average number of people per household had been steady at 2.6 for some time. Household expenditure divided by number per household would give an average of expenditure per person.

But expenditure is not consumption, therefore the authors had to find a way to convert expenditure into consumption. Another quote from the paper:

Under Freedom of Information laws, Treasury (undated) has released some modelling of tobacco demand where tobacco excise data are used to proxy tobacco consumption. Unfortunately, those data are also not in the public domain”

And again:

“Excise data is collected on a per-stick basis (or per-stick equivalent basis) but that data is not publicly available. Similarly, tobacco firms have detailed information of their sales but those data are also not publicly available either.”

To get round these problems, the authors used three separate tests. I shan’t go into any further detail because these tests involve a lot of mathematics. Suffice to say that all three tests indicated no effect on tobacco consumption as a result of PP.

I particularly like this quote:

“Ronald Coase famously argued that if you tortured the data long enough they would confess. In this paper we have tortured the data, but there has been no confession. At best, we can determine the plain packaging policy introduced in December 2012 has not reduced household expenditure of tobacco once we control for price effects, or the long-term decline of tobacco expenditure, or even the latent attributes of the data.”

I think that says it all.

Coupled with that is the RISE in youth smoking in Australia since PP was introduced. Here is a graph which I have copied from Chris Snowden’s blog:

YoungSmokers. Australian increase post PP

Yes. The Tobacco Control Industry claimed, without the slightest bit of real evidence, that PP would have an effect on the way that young people would view smoking. Erm…. No. In Australia, the gruesome and unbranded packs seem to have INCREASED youth smoking.

It would be wrong to attribute the increase to PP directly, of course, but it in not unlikely that a combination of white van man selling illicit cigs and a price war on cigs which has resulted from the visible disappearance of ‘premier’ brands, has fuelled the rebellion of young people.

Let me quote again from a couple of young women in Mallorca earlier this year who were sitting near me outside a bar and smoking. When I asked how they coped with all the propaganda about the horrors of smoking, one of them replied, “Well, that’s life, innit?” I guess she meant that she was used to the abundance of propaganda about all sorts of things and ignored it; or she might have meant that the risks are worth taking.

I think that the Tobacco Control Industry must be absolutely pissed off by Zealots from other prohibitionist organisations using their methods, like alcohol, sugar, salt, etc. The claims of ‘premature death and disease’ are coming thick and fast. Even the most gullible of people must have started getting bored. Once people get bored, they move on. Warnings go over their heads, and they revert to former beliefs. When the Zealots shout, “SHS is dangerous” and produce some sort of bent study to prove it, people will believe it for a while. But when the shouting goes on and on and on, they start to think. They think, “Erm, I don’t know of anybody who ever collapsed in a smoky pub. In fact, I don’t remember pubs being that smoky. Sometimes, yes, but not often. This is a load of bollocks” That is what happens, and always has done. That is why prohibitions have always failed.


The credibility of the Tobacco Control Industry hit a new low in a different setting – the BMJ. Via:


A silly moo has complained that she did not like a couple of people using ecigs in a pub. She was horrified that their actions reminded her that she used to really, really enjoy tobacco, and reminded her how really, really difficult she found it to stop enjoying tobacco. And then she said that the ecig adverts on TV had the same effect. Then she switched from the personal to the objective in one sweep. Suddenly, the BMA’s and ASH’s objections to the TV adverts became paramount. Typical ‘appeal to authority’ stuff.

Thus has the Tobacco Control Industry gone from pseudo-science, to junk-science, to zero-science within the last couple of years. There is a non-linear relationship here. It took several decades to produce the pseudo-science and a decade or so to produce the junk-science. Now, it is all being found out for the lies that it was by the moaning and whingeing  of someone about ecigs yesterday.

There is no excuse for organisations such as the BMA, BMJ, Lancet etc. They sold their souls to Big Pharma.






2 Responses to “The Tobacco Control Industry is Losing More and More Credibility”

  1. brainyfurball Says:

    It is assumed that when faced with a threat, fear will follow. This, it is assumed, will result in an action to avoid the threat. And this is the logic SEEMINGLY being followed by advocates of warnings and graphic images on cigarette packs. They say that the fear induced by the images and warnings will encourage people to stop or never start smoking. However, this is not the way it works. It is true that action will follow on from a threat which induces fear, but what will be the nature of the action?

    Take the graphic warnings being issued on cigarette packs. In this instance there are two distinct groups who react to these images and warnings. Young people, both smokers and never-smokers and, older established smokers.

    What happens when a young smoker, or would be smoker, sees a horrific image on a cigarette pack? The answer, as far as avoiding cigarettes, is nothing very much at all. Why? The image does not induce fear. Why? The threat event is too far away. It is, to the mind of a young person, very remote – it can be ignored. Perhaps this explains why horrific images are being found to be so ineffective. Perhaps this is why the uptake of cigarette smoking among the young remains so high. A month is a lifetime to many youngsters, so how long is ten or twenty, how long is thirty or forty years away? How far away is, ‘if at all?’

    And with established smokers the effect is different but with a similar result Take note that “…the more one is defensively resisting a recommendation the less one is making appropriate changes in line with the message’s recommendations.” And, “…that messages that fail to make people believe the recommended response is effective and/or that they are able to perform the recommended response produce stronger fear control/defensive response

    With the recommended action to stop smoking is NRT which has a 95% fail rate. (Yes I know I am being generous with this estimate) The recommendation is not effective, therefore the threat will be resisted.


    The Tobacco Control know this.

    They are expert at marketing. They, know the psychology involved inside and out. Whole university departments give ‘expert’ advice on a continuous level. Why, even one prominent Tobacco Control advocate has a PhD in the subject.I wonder how many millions have been spent by the various Tobacco Control groups looking into this very topic.(No prizes for guessing the name of this Australian ‘gentleman.’)

  2. junican Says:

    Funny, isn’t it, that the experts in psychology are failing big time.

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