Last week, I wrote to the standardised tobacco packaging consultation using a number of RN articles from the past 18 months to demonstrate why introducing plain packs would be unproductive and dangerous to public health. I gave three reasons.

Firstly, plain tobacco packaging has had a negative impact on Australian retailers’ ability to run their shops effectively. Around 90% of retailers have said it takes extra time to serve customers, 73% said they faced frustration from customers and 59% said staff had supplied the wrong product to customers. Plain packaging has also had a detrimental effect on staff training, stocktaking, ordering and restocking, according to RN’s case studies.

Secondly, plain tobacco packaging in Australia has triggered major growth in the illicit market. Around 13% of tobacco smoked in Australia is illicit, while counterfeit brand Manchester now holds a 2% share of the tobacco market.

The government is showing less commitment than ever to existing measures to reduce youth smoking

The government is showing less commitment than ever to existing measures to reduce youth smoking

Thirdly, and most importantly, there is no evidence that plain tobacco packaging has reduced youth smoking levels in Australia. In fact, legal tobacco sales increased in the year since the legislation was introduced, with 59 million more legitimate cigarettes sold than the previous year.

Despite this lack of evidence, the Department of Health seems intent on ploughing on regardless with grim inevitability. But at the same time, the government is showing less commitment than ever to existing measures to reduce youth smoking.

RN’s investigation this week shows that there’s been a fall of up to 66% in the number of test purchases carried out by some of the biggest councils in the last five years. And this is a measure that’s actually been proven to stop young people smoking.

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