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Australia: plain packaging isn't working says Forest

Mon 1st December, 2014

Campaigners have urged the Government to abandon plans to introduce plain packaging of tobacco.  

The smokers’ group Forest which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign says the UK must learn from Australia where standardised packaging was introduced on 1st December 2012. New evidence, says Forest, suggests plain packaging will not reduce the number of teenagers who smoke.  Instead of declining since the introduction of plain packaging, youth smoking rates have gone up.

According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, youth smoking rates have increased by 36% in the period 2010-2013. [1] Plain packaging has had no impact on adults either. Monthly figures for the adult (18+) smoking rate are consistent with the long-term decline of smoking in Australia. Far from accelerating that decline, the trend for the year 2013 shows a 1.8% annual increase. [2]

Plain packaging is also fuelling the black market. In Australia in 2012 illicit tobacco stood at 11.5% of tobacco consumption. By mid-2014 it reached an unprecedented 14.3% share of the market, an increase of nearly 25%. [3] 

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: “Plain packaging hasn’t worked. Youth smoking rates in Australia have gone up since it was introduced and illicit trade has soared. If alarm bells aren’t ringing in Westminster they should be.

“Standardised packaging would be a huge risk with no beneficial effect. We urge the Government to learn from Australia’s experience and abandon this ill-conceived and potentially costly measure.”

[1] Australian Institute for Health and Welfare
[2] Roy Morgan Research. RMR is Australia's longest-established market research company with a strong reputation for reliability and accuracy. They are used and trusted by the Australian government (including Australia's Institute for Health and Welfare) and a wide range of businesses.
[3] KPMG Illicit tobacco in Australia, 2014 HY report, October 2014
[4] Official Australian Government figures show that the number of 12-17 year olds smoking every day has increased from 2.5 out of 100 (2010) to 3.4 out of 100 (2013) – National Drugs Strategy Household Survey. Plain packaging was introduced on 1st December 2012.

See also: Plain packaging – what happened next? (Institute of Economic Affairs)

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