Plain packaging passes

Stuff reports:

companies are now banned from advertising their brand on cigarette packets.

The Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Standardised Packaging) Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading in Parliament on Thursday evening, by 108 to 13.

The law would make it illegal for tobacco companies to print any branding on cigarette boxes, only allowing the name in small plain type with graphic warnings about the risks of smoking.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga said he hoped to see the new packs in stores late next year.

“It’s just another measure to attack the premature deaths around tobacco…that’s a huge human cost for New Zealanders,” Lotu-liga said.

It will be interesting to monitor whether or not it does actually have any impact on the smoking rate.

We will never know for sure as the Government isn’t doing a controlled trial in a distinct area where you could compare any change in smoking in the area with to the change in the area without. That would have been a science based approach.

The overall NZ smoking rate has been declining for many years, so I expect it will decline under plain packaging. The test should be whether the decline is faster under plain packaging that it has been without it.

To further complicate matters excise tax is getting increased every year, so how do you measure whether any decrease is due to plain packaging or the excise tax increase? Again, a good case for a regional trial.

But as we have had excise tax increases for the last few years, then the best we can probably do is compare the future decreases from when plain packaging comes in to the average decrease over the years of the excise hikes (say 2011 to 2016). This may give us some idea if plain packaging does have any impact. Also will be important to not just measure one year’s worth of data as often there are initial impacts that reduce or reverse. So if plain packaging gets implemented in 2017, then the 2017 to 2020 data is what I would look at to try and evaluate it.

Having been passed, I hope it is successful. Fewer people smoking would be a good thing.

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