Big Tobacco

Opinion: Big Tobacco and big lies

Australia has the tobacco plain packaging legislation due to the wonderful work by the former health minister, Nicola Roxon.

This landmark piece of legislation, hailed internationally, fitted well with her belief  that “governments have got a role to make sure they can help people in circumstances they can’t control – either through their health failing or an accident”.

Of course Big Tobacco has not stopped there. They are continuing their campaigns to boost their sales and to discredit any actions that stand in their way.

Their latest statement is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald whereby one of their spokespeople says:

“In November 2013 a study by London Economics found that since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia there has been no change in smoking prevalence. Other research has focused on people’s thoughts about quitting or intentions to quit not whether they actually will or have stopped smoking. What matters is whether fewer people are smoking as a result of these policies – and the data is clear that overall tobacco consumption and smoking prevalence has not gone down. A separate study by KPMG in the same month found that the black market in illicit tobacco in Australia is booming, costing the government up to $1 billion in forgone tax revenue. The release of the KPMG report into illicit tobacco followed the 24 October 2013 joint announcement by the Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Victoria Police and the Australian Crime Commission of the arrest of 10 people in relation to alleged illegal tobacco importation with around 71 tonnes and 80 million cigarette sticks seized, and an estimated total defrauded taxation revenue of this seizure alone of more than $67 million.”

This claim was tested by the ABC Fact Checkers – click here for the full report. Here’s the last paragraph: ‘The data commissioned by Philip Morris is not clear. It is inconclusive. And there is contrary evidence emerging to suggest plain packaging has had an impact, and will contribute to a longer-term reduction in smoking rates. Mr Argent’s (Philip Morris) claim is wrong.

The claim by Philip Morris is interesting. If this was so, then the Australian Government needs to pay attention and not rest on its laurels. Thanks to the evidence, despite an exaggeration, this statement should be used to introduce even more actions to encourage, if not stop, people from smoking.

After all the figures remain a concern: quoting figure from 200: Smoking kills over 15,000 Australians every year. Every year, Australians spend some 750,000 days in hospital beds due to tobacco related diseases. The costs of smoking, including factors like productivity and health costs, are estimated at some $31.5 billion each year. This is a massive cost for the country

What next?

Time to take on Big Sugar and deal with another huge health problem.

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Paul Costigan, 30 January 2014

 

 

 

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