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banning smoking advertising
February 20, 2011 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Australia, already a leader in tobacco sales restrictions, is seeking plain packaging for all cigarette packaging, forcing a fight with Big Tobacco. Other governments around the world watch interestedly, as arguments revolve around intellectual property rights and spill-over effects. An astro-turf group has been formed to protest "on behalf of retailers". Meanwhile, the Federal Opposition maintains it's links to the tobacco industry. (previously)
posted by wilful (66 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've just come in from the garden where I was having a smoke.

As far as I'm concerned, Australia should take the lead by banning the filthy things.

I'd also note their half-arsed attempt at encouraging people to stop smoking by putting patches on the PBS...IF you go to the doctor, and get a prescription for them, and enter a counseling program, and you only get to try them once a year. Just subsidize the things so they're cheaper than a pack of smoke! How hard is it?

Nicotine-fueled rant over.
posted by Jimbob at 5:38 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Next up: Your favorite microbrew beer and its fancy over-designed label.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:43 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is there any evidence that packaging restrictions cut the incidence of smoking?
posted by docgonzo at 5:44 PM on February 20, 2011


Either ban the fucking things (which I don't actually support, but I'm not Australian, so I don't get a say) or quit screwing with them beyond making sure everyone is aware that they're bad for you and keeping the taxes on them high enough to pay for the external costs.
posted by wierdo at 5:45 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The link embedded in 'links' says, in essence, that there is no link to the tobacco industry. Absent any contradictory evidence on that particular point, your specific point on that specific point would appear to be baseless.

I gave up smoking in June. Champix is evidence that miracles do occur. Just sayin'.
posted by peacay at 5:46 PM on February 20, 2011


The day Australia banned smoking in pubs was awesome. I used to have to air out my clothes after going to my favorite venue and i don't even smoke.

I hate the gross packaging, though. I'm not a smoker but my friends are and it's just disgusting
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:47 PM on February 20, 2011


Why the protracted dance around the issue? It seems clear there are enough people that would like nothing more than to list cigarettes as scheduled drugs and make them illegal. Their goal is clearly defined: they want people to not smoke. At least with pot or heroin you know it's illegal. This just seems like another passive-agressive step towards that end.
posted by l2p at 5:51 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really don't see anything to fight about in the labels themselves, I mean, they're just labels. But as a proxy fight for a future law against cigarettes in general, I think this is fantastic.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:53 PM on February 20, 2011


Outlawing tobacco isn't much smarter than outlawing alcohol or marijuana. Even though I think it might be harder to create an underground economy for tobacco (tobacco plants require more space and attention than marijuana in the current cultivars, right?), the thing is some people would still want it, and there'd be a black market, plus the police effort to fight that black market. At least under the current system, we can tax cigarettes at high rates to try to compensate for the damage they cause. And it implies that we need a strong nanny state to tell adults what substances they can and can't consume.

We saw clearly the differences between prohibition and legalization with alcohol. We're starting to realize that a society without a marijuana prohibition has its benefits.

However, regulating the ads is fine. Heck, ban all the tobacco advertising altogether, and let people decide on their own if they want to smoke. Also, I'm all for teaching kids about the consequences. Gross images on the package haven't really proven effective, though, so I think that's kind of a misstep. It's not morally wrong, it's just not something that works.

I guess my point is that the government has its place in public health, but it should still let people make choices.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:02 PM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


The day Australia banned smoking in pubs was awesome. I used to have to air out my clothes after going to my favorite venue and i don't even smoke.

I hear that.
Just to offer the other side of the coin, I do smoke; a couple of years ago I moved to Germany for the winter, where they do have some kind of semi-smoking ban that rarely seems to be respected, at least in Berlin. Coming from Canada, where restaurants and bars had already been smoke-free for 4 or 5 years, I was amazed at how disgusted I was every morning waking up and smelling my clothes from the night before. I also had quite a few nights where I didn't have much to drink, but woke up feeling hungover from the second-hand smoke (I was usually the only 'freak' who would bother stepping out for a cig, even in -20 weather).
posted by mannequito at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2011


The point of banning tobacco advertising/promotions is not to induce smokers to stop, but to make it less likely that non-smokers take up the habit.

And I agree that banning tobacco would be a counter-productive move. All of a sudden, tobacco would go from being a somewhat pathetic habit to having the edgy underground cool of "real" drugs like cocaine and marijuana; that coupled with the Mad Men retro glamour would make smoking tobacco super-cool. And on top of that we'd get the problems that come naturally out of markets being controlled by criminals with no recourse to courts (gang turf wars, adulterated product, &c.).
posted by acb at 6:09 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I really don't see anything to fight about in the labels themselves, I mean, they're just labels. the labels they have now are disgusting. I don't need to see a diseased foot when my friends' smoke
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2011


Here in BC, Canada, we recently saw a ban on displaying tobacco products openly. Now everyone has shutters, curtains, or drawers over all cigarettes. Any store that displays tobacco cannot allow minors inside. I imagine this accomplishes the same thing, maybe even more effectively. I've often wondered how it can be possible for a new brand of cigarettes to enter the market, since we already outlaw all tobacco advertising. I guess that's the point.
posted by inedible at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2011


parenthetically, here in BC I started to see advertising for hard liquor in the SkyTrain. I was very surprised by this, as I thought that alcohol and tobacco can't be advertised in mass media.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2011


I don't agree with this approach. I would make the labels silly and obvious rather than plain and dour.

Perhaps acid yellow Terry Toweling Stuyvesant packets, and instead of cancerous lips, what about a fat hairy bum sticking out of trackiedacks for Marlborough. And make the cigarettes themselves different colours, anything but white. Say nice pastels for Holiday and Peter Jacksons. Poo brown for Kent.

And also the packets should be unwieldy - perhaps make them out of concrete and too large to fit into a normal bogan's sleeve

I like the idea of cigarettes having little arrows pointing to the smoker's face with the words "I'm with stupid" printed underneath.

Make cigarettes so uncool that only those that actually deserve a long painful, smelly miserable decline still buy them.
posted by the noob at 6:30 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Finding the sweet spot of pricing that makes cigarettes just enough expensive to prevent the emergence of an underground market while still mitigating the external costs of smoking is a non-trivial problem.

India has priced cigarettes out of reach for most of the population (even though you can easily buy a single stick rather than the pack of 10/20). Result? A vast beedi market that operate in open, but remains mostly unregulated.

What governments should aim at is to prevent young people from taking up smoking. Better communication with the youth is the only way to do that. All the gross pictures and plain packaging in the world can't stop a teenager from taking up smoking if cigarettes continue to be considered "cool".
posted by vidur at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2011


Jimbob: "putting patches on the PBS … Just subsidize the things so they're cheaper than a pack of smoke!"

I noticed at Woolies the other day a 3-pack of Nicabate Minis now costs the same as a single pack did last month (~$30, or about 2x the price of a pack of smokes). I see now on Coles' online shopping site that a single pack (20 tabs) now goes for < $13; less than a pack of smokes.

Since the PBS isn't subsidising retail sales, I guess there was some leeway in the supply and retail margins after all…
posted by Pinback at 6:35 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess there was some leeway in the supply and retail margins after all…

There has to be. Look at a packet of patches. Essentially 7 band-aids, with an extremely easy to manufacture chemical, nicotine, impregnated into them. Or the gum, which I hate personally, but still, I'd be willing to bet adding nicotine to gum is cheaper than adding synthetic "bubblegum" flavour to gum. If I can buy a packet of 24 paracetamol for $3, I should be able to buy a pack of patches for about the same.
posted by Jimbob at 6:55 PM on February 20, 2011


Why the protracted dance around the issue?

Because you are politicking over an issue that really is put up or shut up and neither side wants to do either.

So they come out with nonsense like this that is an insult to everyone.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:04 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm an Australian social smoker. I started in my 30's, which probably makes me a little odd. I can't say packaging will make a huge difference either way for me, I'd be quite happy to buy a little baggy like it was illegal... I know damn well it's not a healthy habit but, sorry, I enjoy it and plain packaging or a picture of a diseased lung doesn't make much difference.

In the end, can't we just let adults make, well, adult decisions?
posted by deadwax at 7:05 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Alot of my friends hand-roll their cigarettes. dunno if this is common for non-hipster crowds though

i'm not a fan of smoking but i can't support legalization of marijuana and outlawing tobacco
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:30 PM on February 20, 2011


Is there any evidence that packaging restrictions cut the incidence of smoking?
docgonzo, how can you get evidence if it's never been tried before? That's why the world will watch Australia with great interest.
posted by wilful at 7:40 PM on February 20, 2011


how can you get evidence if it's never been tried before?

wilful, that's apparently not a problem for ?Curtin University Professor Mike Daube, who was part of a preventative health task force that recommended plain packaging." In one of the linked articles he said, "We can be absolutely sure that this will accelerate the decline in smoking."
posted by layceepee at 7:46 PM on February 20, 2011


"If I can buy a packet of 24 paracetamol for $3, I should be able to buy a pack of patches for about the same."

Agreed. I really meant to post a link to a quote I saw last year sometime - I think it was from Senate Estimates, but I'm buggered if I can find it - where the pharma company spokesman was insisting that margins on anti-smoking aids were already as low as they could go. The point seemed to be that, rather than encouraging manufacturers and retailers to lower prices as much as possible, the government would have to put them on the PBS and pony up near-retail prices to do so.

I wonder what the walk-in non-prescription price on patches is now?

I don't know if there's any evidence that one type is more effective than another (e.g. patch vs lozenge vs gum), but it's interesting to see that a 7-day course of patches will cost you at least $20 (if you're a pensioner with a health benefits card) on the PBS - but a 20 lozenge pack, which due to the fact that each tiny lozenge lasts nearly an hour tucked up between lip and gum, lasts me a week - costs a little over half that from the supermarket…
posted by Pinback at 7:51 PM on February 20, 2011


I have a real issue with this for more than a couple of reasons, but the main one is that here in Aus (like most nations that had a baby boom in the 60s), we have an aging population and it is not in our best interests for a massive chunk of retirees to live 30 years after they've finished working while a smaller workforce struggles to support them. We should not be working towards extending these lifespans just so they can be a burden on our society.

The average smoker pays about $15 per packet in taxes (lets say they smoke 3 packs a week for the sake of plucking a number out of thin air, meaning an extra $45 in taxes per week), contributing significantly more in a lifetime of smoking than they will cost occupying a hospital bed for the last 6 months of their cancer infested lives. They are not a drain on the health system as some people might suggest, if anything they are putting in more than they take out.

If these people have been educated on the risks of smoking and choose to anyway, why not just let them go for it? The brutal reality is that the baby boomer generation needs to pass on sooner rather than later for the benefit of everyone else.

Let people smoke, take the 'caution: do not drink' signs off the paint cans, take away the 'caution: slippery floor' signs and let the problem take care of itself.

(The other issue I have with this idea of plain packaging is that nobody buys cigarettes because of the nice packages. They already have gangrenous feet, rotten lungs etc on the boxes but that didn't stop anyone)
posted by gronkpan at 8:01 PM on February 20, 2011


hand-roll their cigarettes

I used to do it as an attempt to stop smoking.

It used to be cheaper, but nowadays in BC, it's almost the same price. Also, handrolls lack filters and tend to deliver a higher amount of nicotine per unit time... which for me makes them even more habituating.

Used to buy jars of loose tobacco when I crossed the border at the duty-free when I was in college; I had money for cigs, a lot of my friends didn't. Instead of bumming cigs to my more impecunious friends, I let them dip into my loose tobacco. Christ, in 2000, a pack of cigs in Iowa was ~$2. (And... goddamn, a 24 case of 12 oz brown glass bottles of Leinenkugels was under $10. 24 cans of the cheapest nastiest beer available in BC starts at >$36. And lets remember that the CDN and USD are at par now.)

Handrolls turn my fingers orange, makes me smell much much worse, and gives me much more lung-poop. You know, thanks Lovecraft, I'm in another mood to try and quit again - maybe I'll try the handroll route again and hopefully it'll disgust me more than I'll want the nicotine. At least it'll save me a little money.
posted by porpoise at 8:02 PM on February 20, 2011


I have a real issue with this for more than a couple of reasons, but the main one is that here in Aus (like most nations that had a baby boom in the 60s), we have an aging population and it is not in our best interests for a massive chunk of retirees to live 30 years after they've finished working while a smaller workforce struggles to support them. We should not be working towards extending these lifespans just so they can be a burden on our society.

Did you really just suggest encouraging people to die of emphysema and lung cancer is for the public good? Are you joking? I really, really hope so.

(Watching my grandfather die a slow and horribly painful death from emphysema caused by his lifetime of smoking - a death that required months and months of expensive hospitalisation, not to mention the trauma and heartbreak for his family - was not exactly a highlight of my teenage years.)

Anyway, I'm a non-smoker but I don't believe smoking should be banned, and I think Australia's high taxation solution is really the best response in that it keeps black markets to a minimum while also ensuring the state can recoup some of the costs of healthcare for smokers from said high taxes.

I'm agnostic on the plain packaging, but the fact that tobacco companies are so fervently against this move suggests somebody somewhere thinks it is a threat to their bottom line, meaning tobacco companies are worried it will indeed reduce smoking rates. That in itself makes me think it is worth a shot.
posted by jasperella at 8:11 PM on February 20, 2011


In the end, can't we just let adults make, well, adult decisions?

In general I agree with this sentiment, but I think the argument is that addictive behaviors like smoking, drinking, gambling, etc don't "play fair." Once someone is addicted it's no longer necessarily a rational decision to continue the behavior, so it's okay for the government to tip the scales a bit.

Of course, how far and in what ways one thinks the government should intervene is up for debate. Some might say that the government should only subsidize smoking cessation programs rather than smoking prevention, since a non-addict is theoretically making a rational choice to start but an addict may have trouble quitting even if they want to. Others would say the government should at least invest in preventing youth smoking, since they aren't adults and so can't be presumed to be rational decision makers.

Getting involved in advertising seems a bit much unless you consider that advertising itself doesn't "play fair." A major point of advertising is to use various psychological tricks and manipulations to encourage people to act against their rational interest. It's one thing when advertising convinces someone to make a stupid impulse buy (fancy a blanket with sleeves?). It's quite another when it convinces someone to take up an addictive, expensive, destructive, and potentially life-long habit.
posted by jedicus at 8:27 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's never easy when someone passes and I didn't intend to trivialise your loss. Sorry if you took it that way.

I am, however, saying that yes it is for the public good that we don't have a large population who are unable to work while a smaller population struggles to support them. I think that giving people the right to make (well informed) stupid decisions is the most humane way of achieving this. If you can think of a more humane solution I am all ears.

Information about tobacco 50 years ago didn't really enable people to make well informed decisions and the taxes weren't high enough to cover the costs of said hospitalisation so it isn't really a fair comparison.
posted by gronkpan at 8:27 PM on February 20, 2011


To some extent, the aim of this kind of legislation isn't even to stop people smoking - it's just reactionism by politicians driven by focus-groups. Smokers are unpopular in the public arena, and having a policy that taxes or inconveniences them is seen as required. The normal one-upmanship has resulted in extreme measures like this one and last year's 25% tax hike on tobacco. It's fascinating watching the conservative parties try to ride down this path on tobacco industry money without being bucked off.
posted by notionoriety at 8:31 PM on February 20, 2011


Alot of my friends hand-roll their cigarettes. dunno if this is common for non-hipster crowds though

I used to do this. I used to smoke pot, too. Interestingly, the amount I spent to buy me a bag of tobacco that would last me a week, if I'm lucky, would buy me a month or more's supply of pot. I don't know what the lesson is in that, really, except that there is clearly something very messed up about it all. Or I didn't smoke nearly enough pot. Or that if pot were legal I would smoke less tobacco AND have more money. Anyway, it's not the neat paper and filters that take all your money away.
posted by Jimbob at 8:50 PM on February 20, 2011


I think Australia's high taxation solution is really the best response in that it keeps black markets to a minimum while also ensuring the state can recoup some of the costs of healthcare for smokers from said high taxes.

But I don't believe the tax does necessarily directly go to healhcare. Certainly, the last big cigarette tax increase was just to plug a general budget hole. Vice takes are the biggest scam going. As far as I'm concerned, taxes on cigarettes should go 100% to subsidising programs and products to stop smoking, poker machine revenue should all go to gambling prevention programs, taxes on petrol should go completely to combating climate change. Anything less than this provides the opportunity for governments to treat certain groups of people (addicts) as cash cows, who can be milked when required.

Imagine if states had to put ALL of their gambling revenue into gambling prevention? We'd probably afford to have 24-hour free gambling counselling centres on every street corner. They could start selling snacks and coffee and offer free rides for the kiddies, and create a new social phenomena! As it is, about enough of the tax is put towards gambling prevention to fund the occasional A4-sized poster in public toilets.
posted by Jimbob at 8:57 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


===...I know damn well it's not a healthy habit but, sorry, I enjoy it and plain packaging or a picture of a diseased lung doesn't make much difference.

In the end, can't we just let adults make, well, adult decisions?====


I actually don't have a strong opinion* on the plain packaging move per se, but I think it has a more nuanced mechanism in mind than attempting to change an adult smoker's habits necessarily.

I'm just guessing (sue me, I didn't read many of the linked pieces) that brand awareness, despite having confronting medical pictures on the packets, is something that is a much stronger dimension of feeling among the young. Plain packaging removes the ability to identify with a brand group (you know, teenage "individuality") which is going to add a subtle negative to the choice.

*giving up recently should probably add a discounting mechanism to any expressed opinion anyway.
posted by peacay at 9:11 PM on February 20, 2011


Is there any evidence that packaging restrictions cut the incidence of smoking?

LMGSTFY
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:38 PM on February 20, 2011


I really don't think there is much "brand dimension" left, given the illegality of all advertising. Surely by now, any kind of brand loyalty is based on nothing more than habit and price. We all know what "Nike" means and what "Apple" means. We know the various images presented by Coke and Pepsi. What does "Pall Mall" mean? What does "John Player Special" mean? What is "Horizon" trying to sell?
posted by Jimbob at 9:56 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is a paper on the issue.

I believe it is intended primarily to reduce the uptake of smoking amongst youth, and together with other anti-tobacco measures, to help relieve the burden on our public health system in the longer term.

There seems to be some evidence plain packaging does help to achieve this goal (see above, and also this). Predictably, the tobacco industry says it does not.

From what I understand the main problem with the research is that it is speculative. Plain packaging hasn't been done before in the real world, so there is no data on the effects. Studies that do exist suggest that plain packaging will make cigarettes less appealing but there's no hard evidence.

I can't see how plain packaging laws would have any negative impact, unless you're a shareholder in a tobacco company, in which case you're evil so no sympathy there.

The packaging laws won't limit anyone's freedoms or prevent any adult from purchasing or smoking cigarettes. So bring on the plain packaging I say! It's definitely worth a try if it reduces the number of slowly dying smokers in our hospitals!
posted by joz at 10:03 PM on February 20, 2011


-I really don't think there is much "brand dimension" left-

Jimbob, there isn't for you or me. And perhaps it's not even so much a brand thing as it is the extinguishing (see what I did there)) of difference and choice. They can't be a Winfield smoker or a Benson & Hedges or a gold type or bright red box lid smoker. They will only be vanilla smoker. In a herd. As I say, it's a very subtle psychological mechanism.
posted by peacay at 10:25 PM on February 20, 2011


It seems like a pretty straightforward issue to me: we know that cigarettes and alcohol are, on the whole, destructive to health of users and society as a whole. Let's turn it around: why would you want to allow to make dangerous, destructive and poisonous products packaged in appealing way?

Apples and lettuce are sold without additional packaging, paper towels, rice and many other staples are sold in plain packaging; why does it makes sense to package good, healthy products unattractively and package the worst unhealthy products in the most appealing way? Isn't that backwards?
posted by rainy at 10:32 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a real issue with this for more than a couple of reasons, but the main one is that here in Aus (like most nations that had a baby boom in the 60s), we have an aging population and it is not in our best interests for a massive chunk of retirees to live 30 years after they've finished working while a smaller workforce struggles to support them. We should not be working towards extending these lifespans just so they can be a burden on our society.

The issue with this analysis is that society is far more important than the bottom line. While I believe it's true that tobacco taxes more than cover the cost of medical treatment, particularly since lung cancer is typically fatal fairly quickly, and after the taxpayer has contributed their working life, the bigger point is, it's a shit of a way to look at a society.



By the way, one of my links suggests smoking in Australia will be virtually vanquished by 2030. What an amazing result.
posted by wilful at 10:34 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thinking back to when I started smoking (I get through a pack every fortnight these days), I can safely say that smoking wasn't about shiny packages. It was about smoking. It gave me headspins. It went great with coffee. It was nice after a big meal. It was a secret I could keep from my parents.

If all the packets were grey, maybe I would have bought different brands, but that wasn't why I was buying the cigarettes. It's not like I ever smoked weed because of the packaging.

I'm all for education on the risks of smoking but people that keep talking about the 'burden on the healthcare system' need to understand that if all the taxes earned on cigarettes were spent on healtcare it would be a net gain. Perhaps you should be writing to your local members about this if you're concerned about how robust our healthcare system is.
posted by gronkpan at 10:45 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry wilful, I should have refreshed before posting that last bit. In response, I think that trying to regulate recreational activities when people who enter them fully understand the risks and aren't hurting others is a shit of a way to look at a society.

It is the government's duty to ensure that people know the risks, not to inhibit their choices.
posted by gronkpan at 10:50 PM on February 20, 2011


gronkpan, I don't buy the argument that all revenue from tobacco taxes (alcohol taxes, etc) needs to go back into prevention & healthcare.

The taxes are worthwhile in their own right regardless of where the money goes. Increased tobacco taxes = lower consumption = less people in hospital from related illness. This is well established. If we can get some extra money for healthcare and health education well that's a nice side effect.

It's a similar argument to what we should do with revenue from speed cameras. Should it all go back into road safety? There are lots of worthwhile ways to use the funds.
posted by joz at 10:58 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not familiar with AU cigarette packs. But I am an ex-smoker. (w00t! 6 months!).

I can tell you with no reservations, there was a time when I was attached to the labeling of my brand of smokes. Even years after changing brands, the color of the pack made me want to smoke some. This was when I was a teenager. The pack was the burgundy colored "Larks".

6 months after quiting, I still dream of smoking for pleasure. I still occasionally get powerful cravings. But now, I also get times when I don't want one, but feel a little 'cheated' in situations where I would have had one, and enjoyed it (like after a flight).
posted by Goofyy at 11:04 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also gronkpan, re: your other post, I don't think regulating packaging affects your choice at all.
As you said yourself 'I can safely say that smoking wasn't about shiny packages', if you feel this way then what's the problem? How is your choice being limited? You will still be able to buy and smoke cigarettes, any brand you like.

Anyway governments regulate recreational activities all the time. e.g. gambling and drinking. Nothing unusual.
posted by joz at 11:06 PM on February 20, 2011


As you said yourself 'I can safely say that smoking wasn't about shiny packages', if you feel this way then what's the problem? How is your choice being limited? You will still be able to buy and smoke cigarettes, any brand you like.

It is a waste of taxpayers money that will provide wider margins to the tobacco companies - entire marketing departments will be rendered useless, producing the packets will become cheaper etc. Our money could be spent on things that solve problems.

My initial argument was that trying to solve the problem of smoking just exacerbates the bigger problem of our aging population.
posted by gronkpan at 11:12 PM on February 20, 2011


Since you're not joking, Gronkplan, I'm horrified at what you're suggesting - that we shouldn't encourage better health in older people because our population is aging and it's better if everyone carks it once they stop working, because they're a burden.

I won't dispute that an aging population poses significant problems for Australia in the future. I would, however, quite vehemently state that condemning large groups of people to years of ill-health and unpleasant, and in many cases, untimely deaths, is not the way that a civilised society deals with those problems.
posted by jasperella at 11:44 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Getting involved in advertising seems a bit much unless you consider that advertising itself doesn't "play fair."

The lengths to which cigarette companies go to advertise their products and get in your head are jaw-droppingly astounding.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 AM on February 21, 2011


I'm saying that we should let people live how they want. If an individual is educated on the subject and chooses to do it anyway then who are we to step in? It's an optional yet potentially fatal activity, so is swimming. I know it's not a perfect analogy but my statement is still true.

I guess I'm a strong proponent of personal responsibility. I'm not suggesting we 'condemn' anyone, just that we let people have whatever fun they want with the knowledge that it will reduce their lifespans. If a 70 year old pensioner who loved smoking their whole life can't afford to smoke any more and dies of an unrelated condition at 75, who have we helped?

Nobody has to do it their entire lives, nobody has been condemned.
posted by gronkpan at 12:04 AM on February 21, 2011


I have been a smoker so I get the cognitive dissonance of all smokers who can read that shit on the pack and still think it won't apply to me. But it is pretty damn difficult now that there are not just words but visceral images, and they take up just about the entire packaging. I foresee a boom in cigarette cases...

Whoever really thought about leaving your gold B&Hs or Winfields on the bar next to your drink when the typography, colours and branding were on offer? Now that pack is unfit for casual propping. Leaving a pack of smokes on a shared table with ghastly pictures of diseased limbs, stretched open eyeballs, discombobulated lungs etc is unacceptable. And enjoying your smoke whilst seeing that imagery becomes more uncomfortable, especially in front of a kid. So I think it will have an effect.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:08 AM on February 21, 2011


The taxes are worthwhile in their own right regardless of where the money goes. Increased tobacco taxes = lower consumption = less people in hospital from related illness.

Yeah but increased tobacco taxes = money taken from addicts, especially those who are poorer, and don't have the social support around them to help them quit, who can't afford aids to stop smoking, who maybe don't have decent access to doctors in their area = just another little thing that spins up the cycle of poverty = greater pressures on the health system.

I don't buy the economic argument that increasing taxes really does anything much but make the government easy money. The elasticity of demand of addictive substances means it's never an efficient way to approach the issue. If you double the price of heroin, you're not going to halve the number of addicts, you're going to double the number of cars broken into. The same applies to smokes.
posted by Jimbob at 12:27 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


--Thinking back to when I started smoking (I get through a pack every fortnight these days), I can safely say that smoking wasn't about shiny packages. --

This sounds like one of those responses to surveys saying that changing the colour of the soap powder box won't change sales rates or that peripheral ads in gmail don't get through the filter or that "advertising won't work on ME pal!".

If you really really think that removing the ability to choose between colours or brand names or type styles won't reduce the numbers of teens who take up smoking then I don't know what to say to you. When I say subtle, read: subconcious effects.

I wouldn't expect this package change to stop everyone from smoking and maybe it won't even have a double-digit % reduction effect, but I would bet large sums on it having some measurable downward effect on the take-up rates in teen smoking. And that's all this is really about (beyond the political palaver).
posted by peacay at 12:31 AM on February 21, 2011


While I was looking for some information on the cost to the health system of caring for smokers, I found this graph of the percentage of smokers in the population, split into age groups. I don't know if I've ever seen such a stark image of smoking killing people off.

At first I thought it was older people having some sense and quitting.
posted by markr at 1:35 AM on February 21, 2011


If the tobacco companies are against it, I'm for it. They do a lot of market research, so I'm guessing they can predict the impact of plain packaging reasonably accurately.

And yeah, I reckon it's take-up rates they're worried about, not the smokers they've already addicted. Eventually older smokers are going to die off, and they need fresh customers. Teens will get a kick out of gross eyeballs and whatever on the packets, while blank packets look duller than a pack of tampons. Easier to hide from your parents, but not really cool at all.
posted by harriet vane at 2:27 AM on February 21, 2011


while blank packets look duller than a pack of tampons.

I think you may have just stumbled upon a brilliant alternative packaging idea. I'd shoot off an email to Nicola Roxon...
posted by Jimbob at 2:57 AM on February 21, 2011


I'm guessing they can predict the impact of plain packaging reasonably accurately.

Yeah, it'll screw up their product differentiation. Coke, Pepsi & Thums Up would try equally hard to subvert mandatory plain labelling of fizzy sugar water. Manufacturers of laundry powder would be equally vociferous.

When your product is little other than a delivery mechanism for nicotine, masses of sugar with a trivial amount of caffeine, or plain old detergent, branding is where the real battle for sales takes place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:00 AM on February 21, 2011


This tampon packet would be ideal for a Port Royal style of pouch tobacco.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:05 AM on February 21, 2011


And the less said about Sobranie Pinks the better.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:09 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I quit smoking 10 years ago, but If patches were priced reasonably I'd start buying them.

It's really quite amazing that they aren't cheap already. Nicotine is very simple to extract from Tobacco in industrial quantities, and dermal adhesives and sweat-activated substrates are also very cheap to make in large quantities. Considering all the chemistry and varied materials that go into cigarette production the prices should be about equivalent. Price fixing seems the real explanation for this.
posted by clarknova at 3:16 AM on February 21, 2011


And also the packets should be unwieldy - perhaps make them out of concrete and too large to fit into a normal bogan's sleeve

I laughed so hard at this.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:39 AM on February 21, 2011


Regarding Gronkpan's comment about letting the smoking population die off to help even out the increasing age imbalance. I'd like to point out the existance of the compression of morbidity theory.
The question that not too many people dared to ask was if we were increasing the cost to society by improving healthcare. Turns out that the theory is probably correct and good health saves money by shortening/compressing the time of infirmity less then you increase longevity.
Smoking cessation is arguably one of the most effective interventions available to improve public health and quite clearly cost-effective.
posted by abx1-se at 10:12 AM on February 21, 2011


Is there any evidence that packaging restrictions cut the incidence of smoking?

You do remember Joe Camel and kids, right?
posted by hal_c_on at 12:46 PM on February 21, 2011


gronkpan: It is a waste of taxpayers money that will provide wider margins to the tobacco companies entire marketing departments will be rendered useless, producing the packets will become cheaper etc.

I don't buy this one either.

Why do tobacco companies have marketing departments? Why do they spend money on this? Because marketing results in an increased sales and increase in profits.

You're arguing that removing by removing marketing functions, their bottom line will be improved? If this was true, then the industry would have moved to plain packaging a long time ago, of their own volition.
posted by joz at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2011


hal_c_on: "You do remember Joe Camel and kids, right?"

I do indeed recall that manufactured hysteria. What of it?

I think the "Camel Bucks" and their equivalent encouraged smoking far more than Joe did.
posted by wierdo at 3:14 PM on February 21, 2011


More previously.
posted by unliteral at 5:16 PM on February 21, 2011


Sorry wilful, I should have refreshed before posting that last bit. In response, I think that trying to regulate recreational activities when people who enter them fully understand the risks and aren't hurting others is a shit of a way to look at a society

But they are hurting others - That's why (in Victoria at least) smoking ion cars with minors is banned. Also, the ONLY litter one sees walking around inner Melbourne are cigarette butts -as if smokers have a special dispensation allowing them to litter. This crap ends up in our waterways.

Also, walk behind a smoker - it's a foul noxious pollutant. it's would be OK if they exhaled a simple mix of C02, 02 and N02 like non smokers - but they don't.

Smoking is utterly illogical and ANY steps to make it unpalatable should be embraced.
posted by the noob at 5:57 PM on February 21, 2011


I think that trying to regulate recreational activities when people who enter them fully understand the risks and aren't hurting others is a shit of a way to look at a society...
The only, and I mean the only problem I have with smoking, is that it does hurt others, because it not only creates a cloud of smoke that the user may inhale, but it creates a cloud of smoke that everyone in the vicinity must inhale. There's nothing inherently wrong with loud music either, but there is a legitimate argument for noise ordinances. If there were some way for people to experience the pleasure of smoking without inflicting the discomfort of secondhand smoke on others, then there would be no problem.

And yeah, I say the same thing to friends who smoke marijuana. Use a bong or bake it into brownies, and, well, as long as you're an adult who knows what the stuff does, I don't much care. Leave a cloud of smoke around that stinks up my clothes and potentially makes me fail a random drug check, and I get annoyed.
posted by Karmakaze at 2:28 PM on February 22, 2011


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