Harry Clarke On economics, politics & other things

June 21, 2014

Plain packaging policies and poor journalism

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 5:06 am

Henry Ergas is at it again! He follows the stable of extreme right commentators at The Australian (Judith Sloan, Sinclair Davidson, Christian Kerr, Adam Creighton) attacking the plain packaging legislation and providing support for big tobacco. The campaign seems timed to influence the adoption of plain packaging in the UK. It is of course exactly what the big tobacco companies seek.  Interestingly Ergas links his critique to climate denialism! There is a link – Ergas has foolish views both on plain packaging and on climate policies.

Underlying all these claims  is the view from a  a tobacco industry (InfoView)  sponsored data base that from calendar year 2012 to calendar year 2013 smoking volumes increased by 0.26% (that is slightly more than one quarter of 1%).  Other industry sources (EuroMonitor) and the British American Tobacco report for 2012/2013 contradict this claim – both suggest volumes fell – the EuroMonitor data base suggests they fell significantly.   BAT suggests higher Australian profits because higher prices offset the effects of reduced volumes. Yes, reduced volumes!

Given the events now unfolding at my university and the decidedly insecure basis of my continued employment I have problems responding to much at all these days but let me make three comments:

1. Suppose the strange claim by InfoView is correct. The increase in consumption of cigarettes at 0.26% was less than one-sixth of the population growth rate in that year.  Per capita consumption of cigarettes apparently fell 1.5% on the basis of the data Ergas is relying on. There is no evidence at all that plain packaging is encouraging extra smoking as Ergas claims.

2. Why would you ever condemn a policy anyway on the basis of one years data (again assuming the data is correct and that the other two sources are wrong)? In 2010 there was a 25% increase in excise and a very striking reduction in consumption in the following year. In addition there were restocking effects and shortages prior to the introduction of plain packaging and smokers presumably increased their purchases in anticipation of the 2013 excise hike.  In short lots of things were going on that might explain a moderation in the rate of decline in smoking in the particular year 2013. If I had to evaluate the impact of a tax cut by looking at unemployment effects in the year following the cut without accounting for other issues I would be ridiculed.  Why the preposterous weight placed on a single negligible piece of evidence that does not show a per capita decline in smoking, is contradicted by other industry data and which does not reflect a lot of things going on in these markets?

3. The Ergas claim that there has been a major switch to cheaper brands which are consumed in greater volumes because of price falls is exaggerated. Market shares of the major brands have remained stable despite caprice increases that exceed the 2013 excise price hike. Cheaper brands have also increased in price.

The initial evidence – short-term and inadequate as it is suggests that plain packaging is helping to reduce smoking in Australians.  I’ll try to find time over the coming weeks to set these views out more fully.   In particular I’d like to sort out why this campaign in The Australian is being implemented.  Is it a disinterested search for the truth and, if so, why the trash methodology?

Update: The Kouk on The Australian’s trash journalism.

http://thekouk.com/blog/the-australian-sinks-to-a-new-low-on-tobacco.html#.U6YcYRap3Ro

 

February 1, 2014

Fact check on plain packaging

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 10:39 pm

Claims by paid consulting firms for a firm producing cancer-causing tobacco products that “plain packaging” have failed are wrong.  The evidence they produce is inconclusive in statistical terms. Other evidence suggests there have been negative effects on consumption levels and participation in smoking.  The problem with the argument of London Economics is that they do not understand the concept of statistical significance.  They, in fact, find evidence of a decline in smoking but assert it is too small to be statistically significant. They therefore assert there has been no effect.  This is wrong – the conclusion should be that there is currently not enough data to determine an outcome.   I am interested to note that the same stupid statistical reasoning was used by climate denialists (many of whom get funding from tobacco companies and who promote false claims about the harmlessness of secondary tobacco smoke) to deduce there has been no statistically significant warming since 1998.   This claim is also false.

It is hardly surprising that the effects of plain packaging are as yet unclear.   The policy targets young people initiating smoking not primarily the overall stock of smokers.  It might take a few years for the aggregate stock data to show much response.  On the other hand the data on a surge in calls to “quit” lines suggests the policy is having an impact.

December 26, 2013

Support for plain packaging

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 12:54 pm

Julia Gillard writes a strong and clear defence of the Australian plain packaging legislation for cigarettes. She is right – it will cost the Australian Government millions to defend this legislation against attacks from the carcinogen producers and their allies in the IPA (copyright protection, free trade etc) but these millions are a gift to humanity since they will probably induce stronger action against tobacco elsewhere in the world. For once Australia can pat itself on the back.

Unless consumption habits change markedly the WHO estimate 1 billion people will die from cigarette-related diseases in the 21st century. That’s about 1 in 8 deaths.

November 4, 2013

Promoting lower taxes & encouraging cigarette brand differentiation

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 9:02 pm

The libertarians are citing a Daily Telegraph article that claims to show that high taxes and plain packaging are increasing tobacco consumption and the size of the illegal tobacco market.  The basis of this newspaper report is, in turn, a KPMG report written for the tobacco companiesKPMG are trying to demonstrate that tobacco producers are “socially responsible” who seek to defend the government’s tax coffers and to stop citizens from smoking.

I’d prefer to describe them as mass murderers who have killed 40 million people over the past decade. Its a more accurate labelling.

The libertarians support big tobacco by promoting the central marketing line of big tobacco – smoking is an issue of “freedom of choice”.  The IPA that, in the past at least, has received funding from tobacco companies is concerned about plain packaging as a violation of property rights. Again this is a central claim of big tobacco.

Of course the incentives are to substitute illegal tobacco for legal tobacco as the price of the latter increases.   The issue is by how much. The answer given depends on the estimated size of the illegal market and there isn’t much data on this.  One certainly does not want these important issues analysed by those who are employed by these merchants of death.

KPMG wrote an earlier report on plain packaging (that was criticized in a paper I wrote with David Prentice).   The latest report (as well as the former report) seems unavailable (I couldn’t find them on the local KPMG website) but my hypothesis is that the estimated figure for illegal tobacco sales (based on a survey of discarded packets) is not an underestimate.

Very high estimates of usage – illegal KPMG claim 13.3% of the total market – seem implausible given the bulky low relative value character of chop-chop (illegal tobacco) and hence its comparatively high detectability.

The plain packaging moves don’t seem directly linked to the issue of illegal sales since plain packaging can be “plain” but still difficult to imitate.

Of course this type of research should be implemented by groups independent of the industry who benefits from lower taxes and the brand differentiation that stems from differentiated packaging.

 

 

*The libertarians are linked to the IPA, the Catallaxy blog and the rat-bag US Heartland Institute as can be seen from their Australian website.

August 21, 2013

Libertarians promoting smoker rights

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 5:40 pm

Over at Australia’s premier lunacy blog Ratchel Conner from the Smoker’s Rights Party is arguing for lower excises on cigarettes, abolishing plain packaging and abolishing restrictions on smoking in private premises.  Her argument is that smokers should pay no more than the non-internalised health costs they impose (wrong if you are a Pigouvian), that plain packaging limits incentives to innovate safe cigarettes etc etc.  The last point is a joke given the history of deceit behind the murderous intent of big tobacco.   Of course the companies actively seek to promote the line that Ratchel is pushing.

George Monbiot shows how the Libertarians, under the cloak of defending “individual rights”, took bribes to foster the interests of the tobacco companies.

Update: The cretins are now defending political donations to the Coalition from “Big” tobacco.  Just what is needed to reduce the incidence of lung cancer!

June 19, 2013

Specific taxes would outperform ad valorem taxes on cigarettes in China

Filed under: China,tobacco — hc @ 3:24 am

I wrote a paper on cigarette smoking (with Bao Jia Tan) while at BEDA in Beijing in 2010 – here is a pre-print. While in China this time I have tried to argue the point with Chinese students that there was a strong case for increasing tobacco taxes in China and that this tax should be a specific rather than an ad valorem charge.  I got sufficiently interested in clarifying my new arguments that I wrote them up (after discussing with Echo, Kening and Xixi) . Thoughts are preliminary.

(more…)

May 18, 2013

Tobacco in Australia

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 7:16 pm

An excellent source of information on “Tobacco in Australia” is the website, with that title, that I have added to my blogroll under the heading “Science”. DP points out to me that one chapter deals with the “plain packaging” legislation – including a reference to a paper written by DP and myself.  Worth a look and a great reference for those working in this area.

May 10, 2013

Plain packaging – take a look

Filed under: tobacco,Uncategorized — hc @ 2:22 pm

One of the ludicrous complaints about the so called “plain packaging” rules on cigarettes it that they make it harder to select a sought-after brand in a shop.  That can only be true if the shop-assistant is illiterate.  The brand and brand variety is indicated clearly on the front as well as top and base of the cigarette packet.  There is also a scanning code on one side that determines ID.

The description “plain packaging” is misleading because most of the packet is taken up with health warnings.  These are accurate statements of fact such as “Smoking Harms Unborn Babies” along with a picture of an underweight and obviously ill new born.  The factually-accurate statement that smoking reduces brain size in newly-born infants is also provided.

Meanwhile a marketing expert (who doubles as a Senior IPA member) reports with glee at Catallaxy that Cuba has attacked the “plain packaging” legislation.  The markets in legal carcinogen provision might yet be restored to their former glory. Pictures of a robust cowboy riding through Malboro Country* would presumably provide better and more informative labelling and help immunize the community against the pernicious influence of the nanny state.

* Of course one must be careful here. Three of the Marlboro Cowboy’s died from lung cancer - one of them testified against Philip Morris and Malboro cigarettes became widely known as the “Cowboy Killers”.  Probably better to pick a cowboy who wasn’t killed by lung cancer.

April 2, 2013

Phillip Morris’s wrong apology

Filed under: ethics,tobacco — hc @ 12:56 pm

Phillip Morris have apologised to the Czechs for presenting, as a business case in favour of smoking, that a financial benefit from smoking is that it kills people early thereby saving the state money on health care and pensions.   Of course they should not have apologised for this since the claim is definitely true – for most countries and certainly for Australia where there is also a large surplus of tax revenues from cigarettes over health costs (including death costs).   I guess what they were apologising for was stating clearly this truth – that smoking does kill people early and since, contrary to intuition, it has relatively minor effects on morbidity – lung cancer kills you promptly – it does save the state money. (more…)

March 7, 2013

Carcinogen retailers wail

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 7:04 pm

In a study funded by Phillip Morris our friendly neighbourhood carcinogen retailers are wailing that their business has been adversely affected by the plain packaging laws on cigarettes.  It takes them longer to serve customers and they give customers the wrong brand more frequently.  They didn’t even get a chance to lobby for subsidies to offset the cost impacts. What bulldust- the brand is still on the packet. They should employ shop assistants who can read.

In other news I see that the UK will follow New Zealand in introducing plain packaging. Good.  Will Phillip Morris fund a further study there?  They never lie do they? These honest business want to retain their business. Smoking kills 100,000 people annually in the UK.

September 28, 2012

What will kill our kids

Filed under: environment,smoking,tobacco — hc @ 1:34 pm

I have acquired something of a reputation as the economist who is obsessed with the harm of tobacco products. “There he goes again….”  There might be an element of truth to this but maybe, because it reflects a reality, it is a relatively healthy obsession.  I’ve been reading a report by the OECD (2012) on forecast environmental problems to 2050.  It’s a good read – all the well-recognized villains are here – climate change problems, water supply and water quality issues, marine and terrestrial biodiversity destruction.  

One of the (to me) surprising entries into this select club is good old-fashioned “air pollution” (particulates, ozone etc).  Indeed, air pollution turns out to be one of the worst villains of all. (more…)

August 24, 2012

Time to permanently extinguish fags

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 10:40 pm

One of my less universally popular posts was the suggestion to only supply addictive cigarette products via pharmacies on the basis of medical prescriptions that depended on patients having significant cotinine levels in their urine.  This proposal would eliminate cigarette consumption by the time the current generation of smokers expires since only nicotine addicts would get fags.  I liked the idea of selling on the basis of a doctor’s prescription because it displayed the pathological character of nicotine addiction. In pharmacies, too, cigarettes could be sold alongside nicotine replacement therapies – a decidedly safer way of gaining a nicotine hit that again emphasized the intrinsic character of smoking as a carcinogen-producer-induced chemical addiction.

In the last few weeks a comparable policy proposal, that has distinctive virtue in terms of simplicity, is simply to prohibit sales of tobacco to all those born after the year 2000. (HT, IC).

I am happy to endorse this alternative that has the same intent as my original suggestion – to let the current lot of smokers be the last – but which operates on the basis of a simple, identifiable rule.  It doesn’t convey the notion that nicotine addiction is a medical condition but has a directness that is attractive.

Cigarettes didn’t become a dominant way of consuming tobacco until after WW1.  By the early 1950s it was realized that a catastrophic mistake had been made.   Smoking has only lasted another 60 years because the legal carcinogen producers criminally lied their heads off about the known deadly, addictive character of their main product – and because of pre-established nicotine addictions.  These criminals shortened the lives of 100 million people during the 20th century.  The WHO forecast that 1 billion will die during the 21st century from tobacco-related diseases.

Good public policy should seek to end the continuance of this catastrophic product.   Support life!

BTW(1) I was delighted to see during my recent exits and entries from Australian that the duty free allowance for bringing cigarettes into Australia has been reduced from 250 sticks to 50.  In my original post I suggested cancelling the concession entirely (the Henry Tax Review sought a tax free quota of only 25 cigarettes) but it is still definitely a step in the right direction.

BTW(2) New Zealand seems likely to mimic Australia’s plain packaging legislation.  (HT, DP).

August 16, 2012

Plain packaging case success

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 11:25 pm

I am travelling in Asia but was delighted to read here that the legal carcinogen producers have lost their bid to show that the plain packaging legislation breaches the Australian constitution – these included carcinogen producers supplying the Australian market and one targeting Japanese citizens.  It is big news even in the country I am currently visiting – Thailand – and is given lengthy treatment here in both the major English-language newspapers published  here.  Moreover, I note in a report recorded in one of them that the Australian government’s costs must be paid by the carcinogen producers themselves.  There is also strong expression of support for the Australian Government legislation from the WHO who obviosly see the Australian developments as signalling an important global breakthrough.

Big tobacco and their paid lying supporters are against the ropes.  I haven’t visited Thailand for a few years but was further delighted to see that bars and restaurants here are now smoke free. That is a huge step foreword.  By coincidence I noticed in today’s Thai newspaper The Nation that smoking in a public place will now attract a fine of 5000 baht rather than 2000 baht. The screws are being applied on big tobacco in emerging countries like Thailand as well as countries such as Australia.

I’ll gloat further when I return to Australia but this is one news item I could not pass over at least without comment. The paper I wrote with David Prentice on the intellectual case for plain packaging did not discuss the constitutionality of the issue – that is now confirmed.  John Quiggin has more to say on this issue and puts this particular victory for common sense in a broader context. Those who sell products which kill those who consume them face a much less optimistic future than they did.

Update: The Australian Government however missed an opportunity to directly tackle smoking issues on the demand side by not allowing private health insurers to charge higher rates for smokers.  Charging uniform premia for smokers and non-smokers alike blurs the crucial truth that smokers have somewhat higher morbidity.  The claim that such discriminatory pricing would disadvantageously switch smokers into public health insurance is probably incorrect. Smokers die earlier than non-smokers and generate savings on this account.  The evidence suggests impacts on morbidity are rather low.

Update: A view from the ultra moronic right.  Note that the High Court have not yet articulated their reasons for asserting that property rights are not being infringed but that Sinclair Davidson, in this post, simply asserts they are being infringed.  Davidson (who is a Senior Fellow at the IPA) has gone rather quiet on his IPA colleague Tim Wilson’s claim that the Commonwealth would need to compensate the carcinogen producers by $3.4b annually for stealing their property rights.  No Tim they don’t and why (anyway) present this claim in the lead-up to the debate on plain packaging? IPA research has been part funded by big tobacco but I assume that would have no impact on the priors of this lot.

July 1, 2012

Secondary tobacco smoke on university campuses

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 9:55 pm

Walking across the LaTrobe University campus is a health hazard – particularly in the central Agora area* – because smokers inflict damaging consequences of their nicotine addiction habit on non-smokers by breathing cigarette smoke over them. It is not being prissy or faking an excessive concern – the US Surgeon General showed that no level of exposure to cigarette smoke is safe.  There is no critical minimum level of exposure with which health damages cease.  The University administration have a duty of care to staff and students – i do not know if they could be made legally liable for diseases that could be attributed to such secondary smoke.  My suggestion is to ban all cigarette smoking in any area of the university where there are non-smokers. That will almost end up almost amounting to a total ban on the campus although I guess a reasonable practical compromise would be to allow smokers to destroy their own health in the middle of an unoccupied sports oval. This program of severe restrictions is in place at the University of Sydney.  If the smoke impinges on the breaking space of non-smokers it is imposing an unwarranted heath hazard and should be outlawed.

The policy is increasingly employed on US college campuses. It should be universal and prevent people in any occupation or walk-of-life from having to experience secondary tobacco smoke.

Such policies also increase the inconvenience ‘user costs’ of smoking helping to save the health and the lives of those who smoke.  It also helps to discourage smoking initiation by expressing strong social disapproval of the activity as well as by imposing extra user costs.

* To the extent such smoking occurs within 2 metres of the entrance to buildings around Agora – it often does – it is prohibited under existing OHS legislation.  The university seems to turn a blind eye to such smoking.

May 4, 2012

Podcast on plain packaging.

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 7:14 pm

Here is a podcast I gave on the plain packaging issue.

Here is a new quality report on this issue.

April 30, 2012

Some recent smoking trends in Australia

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 7:26 pm

Some of the best data in Australia on the tobacco industry is expensive to purchase and mainly intended for use by the industry itself. It is obviously of interest for those concerned with reducing cigarette smoking.  Cigarettes are, by far, the biggest component of tobacco use in Australia – their retail sales in 2010 were worth $5 billion compared to cigar sales of $29 million.

The legal carcinogen supply industry is on the back foot and not only because of the anticipated effects of plain packaging legislation. According to Euromonitor International (January 2012) cigarette volume growth in 2010 was -8% following already implemented tax hikes and bans on displaying cigarettes in retail outlets.  Given restrictions on advertising and promotion, packaging of cigarettes is the only means by which brands can be promoted and even this will end with the plain packaging legislation.  It will be very difficult for individual sellers (in the main, British American Tobacco* (BAT) (market share 46% in 2010) and Phillip Morris (PM) (36%), Imperial Tobacco Australia (16.2%) who jointly control 98% of the Australian market) for players to prevent a decline in demand.   New brands will find it tough to gain a market share – Imperial Tobacco Australia have introduced JPS as a ‘cheap’ brand following the excise hikes in 2010.  This type of move will be more difficult in the future.  With past advertising restrictions price discounts occurred by scaling up pack sizes and reducing per stick prices.

The ‘commoditization’ of cigarettes has therefore already commenced with an increased share of retail cigarette sales going to supermarkets – up to 54% in 2010 from 51% in 2005 – and a decreased share to specialist tobacco shops – down to 17.4% in 2010 from 20% in 2005.

Australia has done well in restricting tobacco consumption. Comparing 2010 with 2005 total sticks of tobacco sold have fallen from 22,532m to 20,151m a decline of more than 10 per cent.  Much of this decline has occurred among high tar cigarettes.   Production of cigarettes has grown strongly with an increase in exports from 1226 million sticks in 2005 to 4186 million sticks in 2010 more than offsetting the reduction in local consumption.  Imports have also increased (much more will apparently come from a New Zealand plant owned by Imperial replacing local production from a plant in Sydney) but by much less than the increase in exports.  I’d be interested in knowing where these exports go.

The industry, will be worried by the Euromonitor forecast of a further a decline in local consumption of 19% from 2010 to 2015 that would reduce sticks consumed in Australia to 16,322 million.

Branding remained important in 2010 with 75% of cigarettes sold being one of five brands (Winfield (BAT, 24%), Longbeach (PM, 17%), Peter Jackson (PM, 12.5%), Horizon (ITA, 12%), Benson & Hedges (BAT, 10%)).   It will be interesting to see what happens to both total consumption and to these market shares with plain packaging.

* The BAT website is fascinating. I liked this claim. “Generally speaking, British American Tobacco thinks that smokers will consume fewer cigarettes each and smaller percentages of populations will smoke. However, the number of adults in the world over the age of 20 is forecast to grow by around 11 per cent over the next ten years. As a result, it expects global annual sales will be broadly unchanged in a decade’s time”. What a ghastly forecast!

April 29, 2012

Plain packaging podcast

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 8:48 pm

An excellent, balanced account of the implications of plain packaging by Euromonitor’s Don Hedley  The PP legislation a frontal assault on the decades of familiarity consumers have developed with particular brands.  An attack on the culture of smoking that will fall heavily on major brands.  An interesting point I had not picked up is that Canada essentially has PP since 80% of packs are covered with graphic health warnings so there are limited opportunities for branding.

April 20, 2012

Will plain packaging reduce cigarette smoking?

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 8:54 am

In this paper I wrote with David Prentice we say yes though it is difficult to say by how much because there have been no previous trials of this policy device.  The policy is however essentially a tightening of opportunities to market cigarettes. We therefore use the industrial organisation literature and evidence  from two previous phases of advertising restrictions – on, in turn, advertising in electronic and in the print media – to deduce that (i) cigarette prices will plausibly fall and (ii) incentives for entry of new legal suppliers will weaken because of reduced profitability.   Price falls can and should be offset by increases in the tobacco excise so that these mechanisms suggest that, there is no potential for the plain packaging reforms to increase cigarette consumption. At worst the effect in reducing smoking will be small and this seems unlikely given the key role that branding occupies in the marketing efforts of tobacco producers.  Likewise the incentives offered to illegal producers will diminish and the possibility of an expansion of illegal sales seems to have been overstated given worsening general industry returns.  Issues of counterfeiting illegal brands also seem to have been overstated since plain packaging can be drab and unattractive but still be complicated to reproduce.

Australia’s plain packaging package seems at worse to be a costless experiment. Indeed it can be viewed as providing an international public good at almost zero public cost. The policy insight obtained from this experiment about the extent to which plain packaging is effective is highly useful information.

April 19, 2012

Cigarettes & Ratsak

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 9:15 pm

The carcinogen producers and their allies must have felt a cold blast of terror creep up their anterior regions when comparisons were made between their tobacco products and Ratsak.  Their legal counsel pointed out that more modest poison warnings on Ratsak are replaced by stronger warnings on fags.  It is a chilling and apt analogy that accurately describes the character of the tobacco product as a poison.  I would argue that cigarettes are worse than Ratsak - and deserve more intense warnings – since cigarettes  kill consumers when consumed as the producers intend. That is not true for Ratsak.

The arguments by the tobacco companies and their legal representatives on the plain packaging (PP) issue are feeble.  Trademark protection is intended to protect a trademark from being used by others. That is not being threatened by the PP legislation.  Government action can reduce the value of a trademark – that does not seem an issue in principle but particularly when the product is a health hazard.  The intention of PP is to limit a public harm and government has the right to seek to diminish values if these do constitute a public harm. There is hence no case for compensation in this case.

Trademark law is intended to promote the public interest not to sustain company profits.

In an interesting twist New Zealand has pledged to follow Australian PP laws and to seek the elimination of all smoking in their country by 2025. Britain’s health secretary has indicated that the UK will also pass its own PP legislation.  The European commissioner for health is advocating the same for all of Europe. These actions are the stirrings of a rebellion around the world that will seek to consign this industry rather than a new generation of smokers to an early graveyard. Good riddance.

April 11, 2012

Evidence on plain packaging

Filed under: tobacco — hc @ 9:22 pm

Direct evidence on the effects of plain packaging on cigarette demands is impossible to obtain since the policy measure has never been tried.  I am preparing some work on plain packaging and found useful insights either directly (or indirectly by following related web links) from this excellent Guardian article by Ben Goodacre.

As is well known the empirical evidence on the effects of marketing on cigarettes is mixed although the best studies – e.g. the 1981 study of Lewit, Coate and Grossman – do suggest significant effects of marketing on (particularly) youth smoking.  Later studies confirm the general proposition.

This site provides a comprehensive survey of articles on plain packaging.

This article provides a review of the case for plain packaging.  The effects of plain packaging reduce the flair and appeal of smoking to the young, reduce the ability of brands to appeal to particular types of people and intensify the impact of health warnings.

This Canadian study by Hammond and Parkinson of 312 adult smokers and 291 non-smokers suggests:

“Respondents were significantly more likely to rate packages with the terms ‘light’, ‘mild’, ‘smooth’ and ‘silver’ as having a smoother taste, delivering less tar and lower health risk compared with ‘regular’ and ‘full flavor’ brands. Respondents also rated packages with lighter colors and a picture of a filter as significantly more likely to taste smooth, deliver less tar and lower risk. Smokers were significantly more likely than non- smokers to perceive brands as having a lower health risk, while smokers of light and mild cigarettes were significantly more likely than other smokers to perceive brands as smoother and reducing risk. Perceptions of taste were significantly associated with perceptions of tar level and risk” (my bold).

Many good references in this source too and a strong convincing case for plain packaging.

This industry study for Imperial Tobacco  - a report that must not be “Copied or Shown to Unauthorized Persons” – shows the legal carcinogen producers are well aware of the importance of brand design on demand.  Color and design of a package influence the sensory perceptions of smoking a cigarette.  No question that the carcinogen producers would lose a lot with plain packaging:

“Consumers purchase tobacco products with specific names and package designs, that is, they buy brands. Brand name and pack design are usually extensively researched to ensure that the connotations associated with each and with the combination elicit the appropriate expectations from the target’. (p2)

This 1992 study of 568 adolescent children finds that plain packaging makes remaining health warnings more vivid.  Again plain packaging works:

“A survey was conducted with 568 adolescent children (average age 13) to investigate the possible effects upon perceptions of health warnings when cigarettes are presented in plain packaging. A measure of unaided recall was used to reflect participants’ attention to the assortment of cues presented on cigarette packs. The presentation of health warnings in the context of plain packs achieved a significantly greater recall rate as opposed to brand packs. When less brand image cues were presented, respondents were able to perceive and recall with more accuracy a greater proportion of ‘non-image’ information” (my bold).

This finding is, of course, intuitive but experimental confirmation is useful.

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