The Cancer Council has described as “junk science” claims by big tobacco that more cigarettes are being sold and fewer people are quitting since plain packaging laws were introduced in Australia.
British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) said on Friday that data showed cigarette “industry volumes” were up for the “first time in over a decade”.
It also claimed figures indicated the rate of decline in the number of people smoking had fallen by half since plain packaging laws were enacted in 2012.
“With growth in industry volumes, fewer people quitting and a jump in the amount of cheap illegal cigarettes on the streets, you could draw the conclusion that people are actually smoking more now than before plain packaging came into effect,” BATA spokesperson Scott McIntyre said in a statement.
Cancer Council Australia Chair of our Tobacco Issues Committee, Kylie Lindorff, described BATA’s claims as “utter nonsense” based on “junk science”.
“There’s absolutely nothing in the scientific literature to say that plain packaging isn’t working, it’s exactly the opposite,” Ms Lindorff told AAP.
She also said there was no available data on what effect plain packaging was having on the issue of prevalence, noting that the government never argued plain packaging would cause smoking rates to “nose dive”.
“What they said is that it would make cigarettes less appealing, it would make the health warning stand out better, and stop packs being able to mislead,” Ms Lindorff said.
She said the aim of the laws was for a fall in smoking rates over the long term.
“The industry’s trying to muddy the waters by saying `a year later there’s no drop in prevalence, it’s all failed’, when that was never the intention anyway,” she added.
The claims by BATA come after Philip Morris this week sacked 180 workers as it ceases manufacturing in Australia, and the British government moves a step closer to introducing plain packaging laws similar to those in Australia.
On Thursday, an official review in the UK of introducing plain packs concluded that “branded packaging contributes to increased tobacco consumption”.
That review followed the UK government announcing in late 2013 that it would likely introduce plain packs after examining how the change affected smoking rates in Australia.
Australia’s world-first plain packaging laws came into effect in December 2012, removing all logos, colour and design from cigarette packets.