The impact of plain packaging on the reduction in smoking prevalence in Australia
Tina Jahnel, University of Tasmania
This case study outlines the implementation of plain packaging for cigarettes in Australia and discusses its efficacy in reducing smoking rates.
Cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death with smoking estimated to kill around 15,000 Australians per given year. Additionally, the social and economic costs to Australian society were estimated to be over AUD $31 billion in 2004–2005. Through the use of various strategies, Australia has been successful in reducing smoking prevalence over many years. These strategies have included advertising bans; smoking bans in indoor and outdoor public places; price increases; public education, and media campaigns.
In December 2012 Australia introduced plain packaging order to further reduce the financial costs associated with smoking, to prevent young people from taking up smoking, and to promote cessation among current smokers. The plain packaging laws are part of a comprehensive tobacco control policy, which prohibit tobacco labels from branding their products with logos, trademarks or other visual aids to promote brand recognition. In addition to the introduction of plain packaging, graphic health warning labels (first introduced in 2006), were increased with the aim to reduce the appeal of tobacco products. Indeed, after introduction of the policy, tobacco sales declined by 3.4% in 2013 relative to 2012, and calls to quit-lines increased by 78%. Overall, this indicates an increase in the number of individuals wanting to quit smoking post implementation of plain packaging legislation, providing evidence surrounding the effectiveness of plain packaging.
However, the plain packaging laws were introduced at a time where graphic health warning labels were increased, and public health efforts, such as tax increases and smoke free legislations were made, it is unclear to what extend the decline in cigarette sales and the increased number smokers wanting to quit in Australia is attributable solely to plain packaging. Despite the overlap in smoking-related policies, graphic warnings were introduced in 2006 and existed in Australia prior to plain packaging implementation. This suggests that the changes in smoking outcomes after 2012 are at least partially attributable to the introduction of plain packaging.
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