The Scottish Government has issued a press release (18/07/14) highlighting figures from a survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which they claim have led to a “significant drop” in Australian smoking rates since plain packaging was introduced.
The Scottish Government stated that the figures illustrate that the number of daily smokers have decreased from 15.1% to 12.8% between 2010 and 2013, a drop of 15.5%.
However, the general long-term decline in Australian smoking rates cannot be attributed to tobacco plain packaging. Tobacco products were also available in traditional branded packaging over two-thirds of the period cited, as plain packaging was introduced in December 2012. In the survey itself respondents were not asked about plain packaging.
The Scottish Government made another embarrassing error when it quoted Public Health Minister Michael Matheson stating that the policy was “introduced in 2011.”
In response, Scottish Grocers’ Federation Chief Executive John Drummond said:
“It is particularly galling that the Scottish Government have been so careless for a policy they remain committed to. It simply beggars belief that for a measure as serious as plain packaging – which will have damaging repercussions for small retailers up and down the country – that the Scottish Government appear not to know when plain packaging was introduced in Australia. We sincerely hope this error is not symptomatic of a wider cavalier approach to the issue of plain packaging.”
The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores’ State of the Industry Report 2013 shows that tobacco sales have actually increased by 5.4% since plain packaging was introduced. Rather than stopping smoking consumers in Australia are purchasing cheaper alternatives or switching to branded packs available on the illicit market.”
“Retailers remain very concerned about the unintended consequences of this policy, particularly in relation to the illicit trade, and will not be reassured by the Scottish Government’s inaccurate use of statistics.”