Dom Post on plain packaging

January 21st, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The editorial:

As Action on Smoking and Health spokesman Michael Colhoun noted, the ”scream test” is a good indication of how effective any initiative to reduce smoking rates might be. This holds that the louder the tobacco companies squeal, the greater chance of the measure having the desired result.

Actually that’s a stupid statement and a stupid test.

Let’s say the Govt passed a law saying that there will be a special company tax rate in NZ for tobacco companies – 95%. They would scream loudly about that, yet it would not reduce smoking by one person.

Why don’t we focus on effectiveness, not hatred.

New Zealand’s three main tobacco companies have also hinted at legal action to halt the move.

The Government should not be deterred by that threat.

Australia’s High Court last year rejected industry claims that the introduction of plain packets across the Tasman amounted to theft of intellectual property, the main argument used by tobacco companies.

There is still a WTO case on this issue, but I agree that legal issues should not be a major consideration (unless there is advise such a law would clearly breach treaties we have signed).

A report on from Germany’s Berenberg Bank last year described it as ”the most material outstanding threat” to the tobacco industry and said that it was expected to have a big impact on preventing young people from taking up smoking.

A report from a bank?

I am skeptical that plain packaging will reduce smoking rates. If there is evidence that it would make a significant difference, then I think there is a case for it.

As I have said many times before, the Government should trial plain packaging. So there is a control to trial against, the best way to do this is a geographic trial where the same policies, laws and taxes apply in both areas – with the sole exception of plain packaging only applying in the trial region. The trial region could be as large as say the South Island.  Over say three years you’d compare the change in smoking rates in both areas.

If plain packaging was shown to be effective, then NZ would be lauded around the world for doing a proper trial, which produced conclusive proof that plain packaging was effective. It would be implemented in dozen of countries within years.

If the trial showed plain packaging did not affect the smoking rate, then NZ could focus on policies that are effective such as the excise tax.

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35 Responses to “Dom Post on plain packaging”

  1. Pete George (23,591 comments) says:

    That’s a bit radical, trialling something and comparing before implementing comprehensive changes. It doesn’t work will with a three year election cycle and parties with a short term focus.

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  2. Manolo (13,837 comments) says:

    If the trial showed plain packaging did not affect the smoking rate, then NZ could focus on policies that are effective such as the excise tax.

    A good summation of National Party policy. The party of low taxes, if you can believe it.
    Labour lite can be proud of counting on Turia and the racist Maori Party’s support in this battle.

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  3. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    this just bugs the crap out of Dime.

    when did it become right to destroy legal businesses?

    McDonalds not allowed branding next?

    Beer? whiskey?

    Everyday we seem to lose a bit more freedom.

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  4. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    As for Turia! “its bad for maori”.

    The kids that get beaten to death probably think domestic violence is bad for maori. If only they put as much emphasis on this.

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  5. big bruv (13,929 comments) says:

    Dime.

    Think of this as a business opportunity, start importing cigarette cases.

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  6. Andrei (2,664 comments) says:

    Its good for the maori gangs as the legitimate tobacco companies decline and the black market for tobacco grows.

    Half the cigarettes sold in the EU are blackmarket these days – these fools will never learn

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  7. big bruv (13,929 comments) says:

    I never thought I would agree with Andrei but on this he is right.

    Over ten years ago I lived in the UK for roughly six years, even in the small village that I lived in there were well known black market sellers of tobacco.

    From memory the price of a packet of twenty was about 5 pound, most black market sellers would provide you with 200 cigs for 25 pounds. If you were a smoker then it was a no brainer.

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  8. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    At the moment tobacco companies compete on branding. If the branding is all the same then they’ll have to compete on price. In which case, smoking rates might well increase.

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  9. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    If you smoke you get cancer. It addicts 100% of the time. If you drink you get funny unless you’re a nong who can’t control themselves. No sympathy for the ‘baccy companies.

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  10. Manolo (13,837 comments) says:

    Monique, any sympathy from you for the fast-food companies, say Burger King or KFC?

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  11. Andrei (2,664 comments) says:

    If you smoke you get cancer. It addicts 100% of the time.

    um no Monique, smoking does indeed increase your chances of developing certain cancers in later life. And indeed smokers do have a slightly lower life expectancy than non smokers. Beyond that it is all whipped up hysteria, we are all mortal and we all get exactly one death one way or another.

    Some people take pleasure from tobacco while they are still here while others take their pleasure from denying other people their humble little pleasures in life, which for us all is short enough

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  12. MT_Tinman (3,204 comments) says:

    It addicts 100% of the time.

    100%?

    I smoked up to 60 cigarettes a day for fifteen years, then I stopped and have never smoked a cigarette again (Currently 29 years).

    How am I addicted?

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  13. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Yeah, fast food companies are providers of cheap tasty convenience food. They is the good guys. It’s the wankers that go on about how they are responsible for the obesity epidemic I can’t stand. Like that Robyn Toomath.
    Look, living more than likely is the main cause of cancer so if a grown adult wants to indulge then for sure, go ahead and knock yourself out. Same with smoking pot, and certain other drugs. Ones that don’t cause psychosis like P and smack.
    If you take the ‘cool factor out of it then kids are less likely to pick it up. But then the baccy companies don’t have customers for life and that is why they is squealing.
    I smoked for eight years. Loved it, but it was a pretty darn tough monkey to get off my back so I believe there is a place for certain restrictive policies. Doesn’t mean we’re gonna see a black market effect.

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  14. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    I think that if people want to smoke they should be allowed to.
    I also think that they are actually doing the taxpayer a favour, since on average a smoker will live for 5 years or so less than an average non-smoker. That means five years less of pension, healthcare (end of life health costs are the same no matter how you die, but if you die sooner you only have to pay sooner), five years less of welfare dependency etc.

    Here in Aussie they’ve introduced plain packaging with big pictures of the things that smoking can do to you. While there was an initial uproar, particularly about a picture of a guy called Brian whose picture as a dying man is the main picture on the box, inset with a picture of him “alive and well” 8 weeks earlier (despite the fact that lung cancer takes years not weeks to kill). After a couple of months it hasn’t stopped one smoker that I know of from smoking. They even call Brian “Good Guy Brian”. In short they don’t care.

    It’s not about stopping smoking at all, it’s about denying tobacco companies their branding, which is the intellectual property of the companies.

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  15. Reid (16,509 comments) says:

    This is about branding which is nothing more or less than Pavlovian association of the product with emotion. Colour is a critical part of branding because it provides subconscious association of the product with the desired emotion. Words associated with a brand are important but it’s the visual association provided by colour and shape arrangements that means humans will then subconsciously process the brand distinction, if you only have words you need to process it consciously and this destroys the subconscious embedding process implanted by advertising which makes you select a particular brand at the shop.

    This is why plain packaging is anaethema to the marketing people and remember that most corporate management have marketing backgrounds. Because while tobacco companies can live, reluctantly, without advertising, plain packaging is altogether a step too far because it destroys that ability to access the subconscious and if marketing and advertising people can’t access that then their black art doesn’t function.

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  16. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:

    Monique Watson (855) Says:
    January 21st, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Look, living more than likely is the main cause of cancer so if a grown adult wants to indulge then for sure, go ahead and knock yourself out. Same with smoking pot, and certain other drugs. Ones that don’t cause psychosis like P and smack.

    Alcohol and pot are both linked to psychotic disorders either as a cause or contributing factor. Reality isn’t divided into neat categories that fit our preconceptions. Things generally exist on a continuum. Smoking P is not necessarily going to induce psychosis. Plenty of people consume significant quantities of the drug on a regular basis without experiencing psychosis. There wouldn’t be as much of a market for it if it were otherwise. Obviously the risk goes up the more you use, but part of the insidious nature of the drug is the way it progressively deteriorates ones health. Psychosis isn’t induced overnight and it may never occur depending on the user and other factors.

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  17. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:

    Monique Watson (855) Says:
    January 21st, 2013 at 10:58 am

    If you smoke you get cancer. It addicts 100% of the time.


    The risk of dying from lung cancer before age 85 is 22.1% for a male smoker and 11.9% for a female smoker, in the absence of competing causes of death. The corresponding estimates for lifelong nonsmokers are a 1.1% probability of dying from lung cancer before age 85 for a man of European descent, and a 0.8% probability for a woman.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_of_tobacco#Cancer

    22.1% is a far cry from 100%.

    Also the 100% addiction rate claim is just silly. First I don’t think you can measure addiction quite like that, and it’s simply not true that anyone who has tobacco will necessarily become addicted.

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  18. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/02/science/is-nicotine-addictive-it-depends-on-whose-criteria-you-use.html

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  19. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:


    Monique Watson (856) Says:
    January 21st, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Important to note those percentages are relative to users comparative estimates of which gives them a bigger urge to use. Also I think those estimates ignore the very serious withdrawal effects of other drugs which nicotine does not have. A person can quite happily sleep 8 hours without waking up in the middle of the night needing another cigarette. The addiction is more psychological than physical.

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  20. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Okay. Well, let me rephrase that. There is a VERY strong link between cigarette smoking and addiction. And there is a VERY strong link between smoking, addiction and cancer. More so than for any other drug.
    My experience: I smoked for eight years and gave up. Haven’t had one since. But I still crave a cigarette on occasion. I still consider myself addicted.

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  21. Kea (12,841 comments) says:

    Monique Watson, the real issue here is why YOUR point of view should be forced on us by the state, as opposed the views of others who respect personal choice and freedom from the states oppression ?

    No one is demanding that the state force you to smoke.

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  22. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    Monique – so you dont like smoking, so youre happy to see it banned.

    Dime doesnt like chocolate. it makes people fat and needs to be banned. you cool with that? or shall i pick something else YOU like but a bunch of other people dont like?

    it cracks me up. “oh no, teenagers are smoking”. good for them. their choice. getcha pull i say.

    Dime is sick of freedoms being taken away “for the good of society” or in this case “cause the government knows better”.

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  23. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:

    Kea,

    Does plain packaging remove your freedom to smoke? I don’t see that it does.

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  24. PaulL (5,987 comments) says:

    Plain packaging isn’t really going well in Aus. Companies have started selling various things – plastic covers for your packet, stickers that go over the packet, all sorts. Has the health folks going crazy, as having a reusable case can make the branding even stronger – since they can be flasher (as they’re reusable). And there seems to be no rule about companies giving the cases away to their smokers……

    I think that plain packaging weakens brands – it makes people less likely to consistently smoke a single brand. I don’t think it changes smoking at all – I don’t think people smoke because their cigarette packet is red (sorry Reid, I think your logic is a bit crazy, and I dispute that a majority of corporate management come from marketing – that feels like something you pulled out of your arse. I wouldn’t trust any of the marketing people I’ve ever met to run a chook raffle, let alone a multinational corporate). So it hurts the profits of the big corporates, but probably doesn’t change smoking rates.

    It also probably leads to people smoking lower “quality” cigarettes, whatever that may mean in a smoking sense. Since brands are usually about quality control to some extent, presumably when you start smoking unbranded cigs you’ll get lower quality.

    Basically this is a religious persecution – people in health don’t like smoking, and they think it’s their job to stop people smoking. I guess to some extent it is, but I struggle with us refusing to outright outlaw it (since we all know that prohibition doesn’t work), but at the same time try to invent the maximum restrictions that we can that stop just short of outlawing.

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  25. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    big bruv suggests:

    Think of this as a business opportunity, start importing cigarette cases.

    In Australia, a company began making and selling stickers which tobacconists could sell to people to cover the horrific images that now adorn “plain” packaging (which is a misnomer when the packages are covered with large photos mandated by the government).

    Health Minister Tanya Plibersek tried to legislate against this perfectly legal business, thankfully found her powers had some limits.

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  26. Kea (12,841 comments) says:

    Weihana (2,753) Says:
    January 21st, 2013 at 2:38 pm
    Kea,

    Does plain packaging remove your freedom to smoke? I don’t see that it does.

    No. I do not see that it does either, which is why I made no such claim.

    Can you tell me why central government should force companies to use plain packaging, if, as you claim, it has no effect on freedom to smoke ?

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  27. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    if smoking is such a concern of maori, can they just ban maoris from smoking? :D

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  28. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:

    Kea,

    I wouldn’t advocate regulation to impose plain packaging. Though I also don’t see it as a major intrusion on liberty. Arguably there are justified limitations on the freedom to market and distribute an addictive product. But in my view our efforts should be limited to recouping medical costs and restricting sale to those who are underage.

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  29. Left Right and Centre (2,986 comments) says:

    dime-

    LR&C says that LR&C thinks that dime referring to dime in the third person in dime’s posts….

    LR&C thinks: Really? hahahaha

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  30. Left Right and Centre (2,986 comments) says:

    dime- just ban Maori being Maori… wouldn’t that solve a lot of shit? hahaha…. just thinking out loud.. don’t kill me…

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  31. Left Right and Centre (2,986 comments) says:

    I remember looking up smoking related illnesses ages ago…. and thinking… hmmm…. it’s not as bad as I thought.

    The message is ‘if you smoke, it’s a 100% death sentence’. It’s really not. It’s Russian roulette with your health.

    And I was pissed off by lung cancer. Non-smokers have a 1-200 shot of getting it too. 1 in 200? Fuck me.

    From what I’ve seen… it’s purely the economic aspect that drives most of the reduction in smokers/ smoking. Nothing else comes close.

    For me that’s the real issue. Once they’ve covered their additional health burden… leave them alone. I would cut the excise tax back myself.

    It will create a blackmarket and people growing their own. Packaging covers given out… good thinking.

    I’m a bit of a hypocrite… politically I’m all for smoker rights. In life, I don’t like coming across the habit. I look down on smokers. That’s an admission of guilt. It’s usually a them and us thing… smokers and non-smokers. Might as well be from different planets. They’re sort of… I don’t know.. always coughing… seem a bit sad…. I’m stereotyping like a mofo but you should know what I mean…

    Smoking has a very strong cultural grip in places and you’re getting down to the hardcore pockets that aren’t going to give it up until they can afford to purchase a pack no longer . It’s a joke. Tobacco has been turned into a pricey luxury item only the rich can afford easily. Bastards!!

    Plain packaging… pffff… for a lot of people that just gets up their nose and makes them even more determined to keep on going. Ban alcohol and tell poeple they can’t legally eat more than they burn off in a day. Next they’ll be telling you where to live, where to work and they don’t like your black bogan jeans….

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  32. transmogrifier (522 comments) says:

    Every day we live only takes us one day closer to our demise. So simply existing increases the risk of death.

    Therefore we had better impose involuntary euthanasia on everyone to eliminate that problem.

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  33. wat dabney (3,775 comments) says:

    How ’bout a law that says nothing can be taxed more than 10% and cigarette companies are free to print what they damn well like on their packets.

    I can think of certain “scream tests” which should be applied to those who advocate the violent suppression of people’s freedoms; people like this Michael Colhoun for example. A good kick in the nuts for starters.

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  34. CharlieBrown (1,014 comments) says:

    The government should fuck off out of peoples private lives and let people make their own informed decision. Lets face it, if you don’t know that smoking kills and then you are doing the human race a favour by taking up smoking.

    Obesity kills way more people but thankfully the government hasn’t listened to the fascist pigs that want to ban fast food (or tax it).

    ASH and all th ose anti-smoking fascist groups should watch the southpark episode “Butt Out”. There is some great quotes:

    Rob Reiner: “Sometimes lying is okay, like when you know what’s good for people more than they do.” – classic left wing statement

    Cartman on the leader of the anti-smoking groups: “He just goes around imposing his will on people, he’s my idol.” and “Wow, it’s like smoking brings a lot of people just a little bit of joy, and you get to take that away from them! You’re awesome.”

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  35. mummified (9 comments) says:

    Quote from DPF

    A report on plain packaging from Germany’s Berenberg Bank last year described it as ”the most material outstanding threat” to the tobacco industry and said that it was expected to have a big impact on preventing young people from taking up smoking.

    A report from a bank?

    Berenberg Bank are an investment bank, and these reports are prepared for the investor community – based on the investment banks view of the valuation of the company. The bank has identified this as a risk and I imagine that it would be significant enough to affect the value of companies in the industry.

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