Plain Packaging Will Fail, Says Australian Professor

A Professor of institutional economics at RMIT University in Australia and public affairs researcher believes that the EU’s plain packaging policy will fail to reduce smoking rates and health-care costs in Europe, just like it has in Australia.

Plain-packaging was formally introduced in May 2017, packed with warnings about the danger of smoking as well as featuring a mud-green colour, standardised size, shape and opening system.

Tobacco giants have challenged the plain-packaging policy, but have been fighting a losing battle. The Supreme Court has also refused a legal challenge from the tobacco industry.

Australia introduced their plain packaging on tobacco products five years ago, and several EU countries have or plan to go the same way.

“It is still very early days in Europe, but the early French and UK experiences are mirroring the early Australian experience. For example, an article in the French media reported that customs duty data showed a one per cent increase in tobacco usage in the first four months in 2017 compared to the same period in 2016,” writes Professor Sinclair Davidson online at EURACTIV.

“This closely mirrors the Australian experience – although the Australian government attempted to cover up the tax data results by fudging the policy start date and ignoring tax refunds on returned products. The Australian government had originally claimed that tobacco excise payments had declined by 3.4 per cent as a result of plain packaging. Yet once tax and timing issues had been taken account of, excise tax revenues rose by 0.8 per cent in the first year after the introduction of plain packaging.”

Professor Davidson explained that the economic consultancy Europe Economics have investigated the plain packaging policies in France and the UK, and has found no statistical impact, which is a similar scenario to that Australia has seen.

To close the opinion-piece, Davidson stated that while the policy would be effective if it were reducing smoking rates and health-care costs, it seems to have failed to save any of the taxpayer’s money in Australia, and is likely to fail in the UK too.

“It seems somewhat immoral to pursue a policy that advantages criminals over law-abiding, taxpaying citizens that fails to achieve its stated goals.”

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