ASH response to Democracy Institute report on tobacco plain packaging: he who pays the piper calls the tune

Wednesday 14 March 2012

A report published today by a tobacco industry funded libertarian think tank, the Democracy Institute, questions the evidence to support putting cigarettes in plain packaging. The authors of the report, John Luik and Patrick Basham, are two self-proclaimed “experts” on tobacco advertising and regulation with established links to the tobacco industry. [1] Not surprisingly, they adopt the pro-tobacco line that there is no evidence to support plain packaging. The Institute of Economic Affairs, which is hosting the launch, has also been a recipient of tobacco industry funding but has refused to say whether this is still the case. [2]

Contrary to the claims made by Basham and Luik that tobacco plain packaging would not work as a health policy, there is a wealth of evidence to show that plain packs are less appealing, make the health warnings more effective, and stop smokers believing some brands are less harmful than others. [3] Children and young people are particularly likely to hold these views, thus making it less likely that they would be attracted to smoking if cigarettes were put in plain packs.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH commented:

“This book purports to show that plain packaging can’t work, hardly a surprise given the authors have a track record of tobacco industry funding. They previously argued that the ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship wouldn’t work either. The proof is in the results: smoking prevalence among children has fallen by half since the ad ban came into effect. But that still leaves hundreds of thousands of children taking up smoking each year. The pack is known in the industry as the ‘silent salesman’. Putting cigarettes in plain, standardised packaging is the obvious next step.”


Notes and links:
[1] Plain Packaging’s bad for our health.
A report in The Independent also comments on the launch of this publication noting that: “In its publicity for the launch of The Plain Truth, the IEA makes no mention of the fact that Dr Luik has received substantial funding from the tobacco industry and that Dr Basham has worked for two American think-tanks that have accepted money from cigarette companies.” 

[2] The Institute of Economic Affairs is a right-wing think tank, whose former President, Ralph Harris, was Chairman and President of industry-funded lobby group FOREST. The IEA has been a long-standing recipient of tobacco industry funding and has been described by BAT as “a good ally”.

[3] Plain packaging of tobacco products: A review of the evidence Quit Victoria, 2011