Trial plain packaging

July 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

for tobacco is no “slam dunk,” Prime Minister John Key says.

The Health Ministry today released an assessment on the impact of a plan to strip all branding off the packaging of tobacco products.

Officials backed the plan, saying it would reduce the likelihood of consumers being misled about the harmfulness of tobacco and increase the effectiveness of existing health warnings. It would also bring New Zealand into line with a plain packaging policy in Australia due to take effect in October.

But the paper warned of a ”reasonably high risk” of legal action that could cost millions of dollars in legal costs alone.

Australia has already been challenged by three countries through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and by tobacco companies at the High Court for its plain packaging policy. The objections are over the alleged violation of international trade rules and the loss of value in trademarks.

Officials said New Zealand would face legal costs of $3m to $6m for “international investment arbitration” and a further $1.5m to $2m to defend a WTO case.

Key today said the Government felt it was “likely” to be able to legally introduce plain packaging but it was “not absolutely clear cut”.

‘‘There are lots of things we need to consider – I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk by any chance that plain packaging will take place but nor would I rule it out. It really is, genuinely, a true consultation period,” Key said.

I think we should take a science based approach to this issue, and do a trial – perhaps in the South Island. The research I have seen to date merely states that some young people say they find the packaging attractive. That is very different to concluding that fewer people would smoke with plain packaging. I’m all for reducing the number of people who start smoking, but that doesn’t mean one should support every measure proposed. The key things to ask are “Will it work?” and “What are the negative consequences of the measure?”.

No country in the world has plain packaging, so we do not know if it will work. Now, I accept the argument that you don’t know if it will work until someone does try it. This means we could wait for the results from Australia. The problem is that with overall smoking rates on the decline anyway, it will still be hard to tell if any decline was due to the plain packaging.

Hence why we should trial it in say the South Island. Have a three year trial, and at the end of each year survey the smoking rates in both North and South Island and see if there has been any significant variation in the rate of change. If the South Island rate has declined significantly more, then you would be on safe grounds to make the trial permanent, and extend it to the North Island. If it has not, then the trial ends.

Also kudos to David Shearer for being sensible on this issue, as also reported by Stuff:

Prime Minister John Key has been labelled a ”wimp” for refusing to commit to plain packaging of tobacco.

But the taunt, from Labour MP Clare Curran, is not backed by her leader David Shearer who said Key’s cautious approach was ”actually a responsible thing to do”.

A decision to implement or not to implement will be based on inadequate information. That’s why a trial is the sensible way forward. It will allow the benefits, if any, to be quantified.

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35 Responses to “Trial plain packaging”

  1. Manolo (13,396 comments) says:

    The hopeless Tariana Turia pushing for this thing, whilst she should concentrate on the major issues that afflict her ilk (e.g., child abuse, criminality.)

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  2. Pete George (22,866 comments) says:

    Also kudos to David Shearer for being sensible on this issue

    Yes, top marks for David Shearer’s approach on this, it shows he is prepared to rise above reactive opposition politics.

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  3. kowtow (7,653 comments) says:

    nanny,nanny,nanny

    On the positive side though with plain packaging we may not be subjected to those disgusting photos of cancerous this that and the other.

    Now I’m waiting for plain packaging for soft drinks, chocolate bars and sugar bags………. But before that can we have pictures of fatties on them first?

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  4. WineOh (556 comments) says:

    Why the South Island in particular? What about any particular community, say… Raglan or Waipukurau, or Greater Wellington Region?

    [DPFL The bigger the population, the more reliable the comparison, and easier to implement.]

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  5. thedavincimode (6,539 comments) says:

    Namby pamby bollocks.

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  6. Keeping Stock (10,114 comments) says:

    Clare Curran has made a proper plum of herself again, having publicly slagged off the Manager of the Warehouse in South Dunedin at the weekend for objecting to her and her entourage getting petition signatures at his shop.

    For a self-described communications specialist, she surely commits her share of PR blunders and SMOG’s (Social Media Own Goals).

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.co.nz/2012/07/oh-clare.html

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  7. Harriet (4,532 comments) says:

    kowtow#

    Here in Australia the disgusting photos are going to be increased to about half the size of the packet.The packet itself is olive green in colour.

    Cigarette cases cost $2 at the $2 shop. Most people I talk to are just going to use them.

    I smoke 3-4 a day.The funny thing is that doctors here tell people ‘if you can’t stop, then at least cut down.’ Which then tells me and others I know that smoking occasionly -say 3 a day- is not really that bad for your health.

    You’d think the health department would make up their minds.

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  8. mara (726 comments) says:

    The plain packs. It won’t work. For a small consideration, say, $300.000, I’ll go to Wgtn to tell them how to save taxpayer’s money big time by not meddling here.

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  9. anonymouse (695 comments) says:

    I think we should take a science based approach to this issue, and do a trial – perhaps in the South Island.

    Why not just wait for plain packaging in the west island to get underway, then you can see the results without having to worry about being hauled off to the WTO by some litigious nicotine pushers…….

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  10. tvb (4,210 comments) says:

    The fact that the tobacco companies are so against this suggests there might be something in this. I am more interested in another sharp increase in the price as this will deter the gateway into smoking. I accept it might be hard on the addicts but interestingly banning smoking in prisons has not been too difficult.

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  11. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I reckon the Hutt would be a better place for a trial than the South Island.

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  12. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Its a proven fact white cars have less crashes.

    Why hasn’t there been a law passed that requires all cars to be white?

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  13. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    It is a proven fact that liberals are more intelligent than conservatives, so why not pass a law banning all conservatives?

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  14. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201003/why-liberals-are-more-intelligent-conservatives

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  15. Fost (100 comments) says:

    @tvb

    Have you considered the reason for the tobacco companies object is less to do with quantity sold and more to do with market share – with plain packs all cigarette will look the same and thus buy the cheapest – but the tobacco companies spend large amounts of money to maintain a brand – those packets with their glossy print and metallic inks must cost far more than a plain pack – but that is far more to maintain or grow their own share of the those that smoke than try to ‘hook’ new users – the new users come of their own accord.

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  16. tristanb (1,133 comments) says:

    I think we should take a science based approach to this issue, and do a trial

    How about we just allow them to have branded packaging and not waste money on trialling something which (even if it is effective) is still severe nannying.

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  17. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    Good ol nanny state rushing to rescue us from ourselves.

    The problem is the concept of addiction. People talk as if it takes away our self-control which is bullshit. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: an excuse to continue doing what we like doing regardless of consequences by shifting all blame to someone else.

    The problem is that this concept can be applied to so many areas of life and it will given time. There is no shortage of self-righteous do-gooders who have a sob story about a loved one…. whether it be the cigarettes that killed their relative… the alcohol… the fast food… the video games… the casino…

    All can be banned in time if the same strategy is employed… first we recognize the associated harm… then we attribute responsibility for that harm to the activity rather than the individual… then we employ regulations to minimize the activity… eventually when it’s unpopular enough we prohibit it because logically the only way to minimize the harm is if the activity is never undertaken.

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  18. Weihana (4,496 comments) says:

    tristanb,

    +1

    It’s not about whether or not it’s effective. It’s about the freedom to live one’s own life as one sees fit and so long as one does not impose their lifestyle on someone else then it’s none of the government’s fucking business, sanctimonious politicians notwithstanding.

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  19. Zapper (926 comments) says:

    Will this mean packets of cigarettes are cheaper due to reduced packaging costs? That will effect consumption, but not in the manner intended. Almost makes me want it to go through to then hear Turia have to explain an increase in a few years time.

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  20. Australis (99 comments) says:

    Packaging identifies a brand, enabling competition for market share.

    The Australian businesses denied the use of their trade marks are suing for compensation. If they succeed, it will be on the basis that the Government has unlawfully expropriated their property rights – a tactic one associates more readily with a Chavez or a Mugabe than with Australia’s Labour/Green coalition.

    Why aren’t we awaiting the outcome of that litigation? And the allegations of breach of the WTO rules? What will this policy do to TPP aspirations and other trade negotiations?

    I don’t know the details of the argument, but it certainly appears that important principles are at stake here. NZ bureaucrats seem more concerned with the billions of dollars of likely legal costs, taking much less interest in the country’s legal obligations and constitutional conventions.

    The notion that the Government of the day might simply confiscate the intellectual property of any business at any time (provided it is politically popular to do so) will do nothing for the investment climate or the touted objective of economic development.

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  21. fish_boy (152 comments) says:

    “…Why hasn’t there been a law passed that requires all cars to be white..?”

    According to Monash university black, silver and grey coloured cars have a 47%, 15% and 25% respectively higher crash risk than white at dusk, while those colours plus dark blue and dark red have between 7%-12% increased risk in daylight. Given the high cost of road accidents to the taxpayer, those statistics seem to present a compelling case for at least the banning of certain colours.

    http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/research/reports/muarc263.pdf

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  22. Nookin (3,037 comments) says:

    “Why hasn’t there been a law passed that requires all cars to be white?”

    Because if we did that, 100% of car crashes would involve white motor vehicles. The Greens would probably then get into power on the theory that we have tried black cars (remember Henry Ford) multi-coloured cars,and white cars and are still having crashes and that the only sensible option is to ban motor vehicles altogether.

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  23. Manolo (13,396 comments) says:

    Given the high cost of road accidents to the taxpayer, those statistics seem to present a compelling case for at least the banning of certain colours.

    The totalitarians would love to run and control our lives to the nth degree. To all of them: just fuck off!

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  24. david winter (10 comments) says:

    “The bigger the population, the more reliable the comparison” – would be slightly horrifying to think someone that uses stats for a living really thinks this is true. They should do a trial, and randomisation isn’t possible, but they should aim to get a more balanced comparison than SI v NI.

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  25. Mark (1,367 comments) says:

    If someone is after a cigarette it is not going to make much difference whether it it is in a brown paper bag or a coloured box, they will still but it. The answer is to tax the crap out of the market.

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  26. Manolo (13,396 comments) says:

    The answer is to tax the crap out of the market.

    The sheeple are claiming to be slaughtered.

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  27. leftyliberal (642 comments) says:

    “I smoke 3-4 a day.The funny thing is that doctors here tell people ‘if you can’t stop, then at least cut down.’ Which then tells me and others I know that smoking occasionly -say 3 a day- is not really that bad for your health.

    You’d think the health department would make up their minds.”

    Saying “if you can’t stop, then at least cut down” does not preclude a small amount being bad for your health – it’s likely that there’s an additive effect so that more smokes equates to more damage. A little bit of thought goes a long way.

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  28. kowtow (7,653 comments) says:

    Black cars more dangerous than white,can’t say that.It could be construed as racist.

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  29. Than (425 comments) says:

    Conducting a trial large enough to be significant would probably incite legal action by tobacco companies. We would have to suffer the major negative just to try and find out if there is a positive.

    Better to watch the Australian attempt play out. It’s not as good as a controlled trial, but it is still some evidence whether plain packaging works. And we can also observe the response of the tobacco companies to give hints how things might play out here.

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  30. Rick Rowling (801 comments) says:

    Well, they got smoking out of aeroplanes, workplaces, pubs & restaurants etc, so smokers aren’t really hurting the rest of us any more.

    And no-one can take up smoking these days without knowing all the reasons why it’s a really really bad idea.

    So job done. No need to do any more. They’re excised to pay for the extra healthcare, there’s the benefit of lower superannuation costs, let it go already.

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  31. andretti (127 comments) says:

    tvb (2,738) Says:
    July 24th, 2012 at 1:26 pm
    The fact that the tobacco companies are so against this suggests there might be something in this. I am more interested in another sharp increase in the price as this will deter the gateway into smoking. I accept it might be hard on the addicts but interestingly banning smoking in prisons has not been too difficult.

    If people want to smoke they will,just like when they made weed illegal didnt stop that either.Why oh why can not people just leave things alone.I see the day the black power will be the main seller of smokes.

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  32. andretti (127 comments) says:

    Manolo (7,073) Says:
    July 24th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    The totalitarians would love to run and control our lives to the nth degree. To all of them: just fuck off!

    Could not agree more,im waiting for the time someone from the guverment comes down to wipe my ass

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  33. andretti (127 comments) says:

    I have never smoked and dislike people who do but I will defend their right to do it with my last breath.the do gooders will NEVER go away they will keep marching on untill they have total control.Fuck them.

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  34. CharlieBrown (910 comments) says:

    andretti – Could not agree more,im waiting for the time someone from the guverment comes down to wipe my ass

    Come one, don’t be dramatic, the nats wouldn’t go that far, they’d just regulate the way we wipe our arses and tell the police to use discretion when investigating parents that teach their kids how to wipe themselves in the wrong way.

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  35. calendar girl (1,177 comments) says:

    More state nannying. And sadly, once again, DPF is tinkering in the role of market interventionist rather than free marketeer.

    Tobacco and smoking are already heavily taxed, restricted and pilloried. And only fools, even very young fools, could claim not to be aware of the health dangers of smoking.

    If the state is serious about deterring and curtailing smoking, let it legislate to ban the production, sale and consumption of tobacco products. Otherwise it should get out of that part of our lives – and the operations of legitimate manufacturers and vendors of a legal product.

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