Two years have passed since the Australian Government pushed through plain packaging legislation, ignoring repeated warnings that it would do nothing to reduce smoking rates (and might even increase them) while giving carte-blanche to tobacco smugglers (many of whom fund terrorist organisations) to operate in Australia with impunity.
Given the embarrassment that this policy is causing Australia, with 100 business groups from around the world condemning the policy earlier this week, and a recent major legal loss at the WTO as international commentators ridicule the policies failure, it is hardly surprising that the Australian Government has refused to commission any independent post-implementation review.
Despite the government’s failure to honour fundamental principles of good governance through commissioning a review, four independent reports have recently been issued examining the effects of plain packaging in Australia. And the results are indisputable – so much so that taxpayer funded nanny state activists have resorted to complaining that the legislation is being ‘bullied’. Really.
Professor Sinclair Davidson & Ashton de Silva from RMIT University performed a comprehensive econometric analysis of smoking rates following the introduction of plain packaging, published in by Australian National University in Agenda Magazine. The conclusion:
“Despite our econometric efforts, the [ABS Household Survey] data refused to yield any indication this policy has been successful; there is no empirical evidence to support the notion that the plain packaging policy has resulted in lower household expenditure on tobacco than there otherwise would have been. There is some faint evidence to suggest, ceteris paribus, household expenditure on tobacco increased.”
This matches a comprehensive study by Ernst & Young on historical trends in tobacco consumption in Australia, which found “no evidence that plain packaging in Australia has reduced total consumption to date“.
Meanwhile, a report by KPMG, using worlds-best-practice in monitoring illegal tobacco usage, found illicit tobacco rates keep going up and in the last 12 months has increased from 13.5% to 14.3% of total consumption.
Finally, MyChoice Australia put together a report looking at all the evidence for the International Property Rights Index, concluding “on every measure, tobacco plain packaging is a failed policy measure.”
The evidence is indisputable – the only question is whether our government will continue to bury its head in the sand, or will take action to repeal this failed measure.