Tobacco evidence

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Sheila Duffy (Letters, 9 September), like many single-issue lobbyists, celebrates the data that confirms her view while casually disregarding other evidence that contradicts it.

In her letter, she refers to the dozens of studies that have focused on tobacco plain packaging without mentioning the “inconvenient finding” that not a single one of those studies has actually shown a reduction in smoking prevalence attributable to plain packaging.

In advance of this policy being implemented in Australia, leading tobacco control researchers were advising that plain packaging would result in a 1 per cent reduction in adult smoking 
and a 3 per cent reduction in children’s smoking within two 
years of the policy being implemented.

Those same researchers are now advising that plain packaging may be a “slow burn distal” influence on smoking with its impact best considered in the long term when it is used alongside a whole host of other tobacco control measures such as taxation.

Tobacco plain packaging was implemented as a way of reducing smoking prevalence and while it may well reduce the 
attractiveness of smoking, nobody ever died from the attractiveness of a cigarette packet.

The key to reducing smoking-related health harm, as Duffy well knows, is to reduce smoker numbers.

Those who advocated for plain packaging should be demanding the evidence on whether it has reduced smoker numbers rather than switching the assessment criteria to a range of soft, subjective measures, such as determining if plain packaging reduces the appeal of smoking.

Neil McKeganey PhD

Centre for Drug Misuse Research

Glasgow

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