Wednesday, 1 August 2012

From Linda Bauld: the case for plain packaging (UK Smoking Cessation Conference address)

Here's Linda Bauld's spiel.

She sticks fairly closely to the slide show, reproduced below the audio clip.

I thought I would present it here as we are near the end of the consultation period on this (12 August).  To me (cynic that I am) it sounds as if she is saying the following:

1. There is no empirical evidence about plain packaging because it is not in place anywhere yet.
2. We have been asked by the government to compile evidence and we have done so using reports of varying quality that somehow combine to make a very strong case.

3. It is quite untrue that our academic report is biased. It is all peer reviewed. We chose all the studies and the government chose us  to do the work because of our monopoly of wisdom and experience in this particular area.

4. Branded packs are more attractive than plain ones and this suggests that people will be less inclined to choose plain packs even when they can't choose branded ones. Plain packs are associated with older, less attractive and less popular people in society and the young won't want to be associated with that kind of person (this is what it says in the research!)
5. Young people that our colleagues gave plain cigarettes to were too embarrassed to get them out when out with their smoking friends, and more likely to think about quitting. This is ample evidence that they will actually go on to quit when the law is enacted and their friends are all carrying plain packs around.
6. There is no evidence that the policy will result in further extension of illicit tobacco sales (forgot about point 1, where it says there is no evidence about any aspect of the policy, because it has not been implemented anywhere yet).

For more about peer reviewing see here. It does not prove worth. This whole area of research is led by policy requirements, and peer review is alleged here to be part of this process.


Anonymous said...

Hi Belinda,

I picked up on your link to Laura Jones's talk at the same event. I have transcribed the whole talk at the BSC:

Linda Bauld's talk reveals much the same delusion, which is that surveys (of whatever kind, including questionnaires) are useless as an indication of what people eventually decide to do. We saw that very clearly in ASH's 'evidence' that non-smokers were desperately waiting for the smoking ban in order to flood pubs with their custom.

I have been asking myself an interesting question, which is this:

Will the Government be able to reap taxation benefits from 'plain packaging'? I cannot think if any.

We must wait to see to see what happens after the consultation, but if past performances are anything to go by, lack of taxraising potential could be a big disincentive for the Government.

Belinda said...

Thanks Junican. The URL you left for the Laura Jones transcript was incomplete:

I think tax losses are more likely from plain packaging, especially if they go as far as they did in New Zealand (?)(blogged recently), and prevent shops informing the public that they sell tobacco at all.