The Democracy Institute recently released a paper called “An Australian Lesson – The Plain Packaging Experiment Is a Failure” in which the think tank clearly shows that the plain packaging policy has been remarkably ineffective.
The rest of this paper is therefore divided into four parts: An assessment of the available empirical evidence to determine whether the 28 month-long regulatory plain packaging experiment has achieved its principal objectives; a discussion of any unintended public health or economic consequences that may result from the plain packaging policy; an answer to the pivotal, but overlooked, question, “Why is plain packaging a failure?”; and a brief discussion of the lesson from the Australian experience that may serve to educate policymakers in other countries.
The report references a number of credible research papers that show, among other things, that the level of illegal consumption of tobacco in Australia has reached record levels, as volumes of illicit branded tobacco products increased by 151% from 2012 to 2013. The plain packaging-induced rise of illicit tobacco has also had dramatic impacts upon Australia’s small retailers. One-third of these retailers say their customers have asked if they can purchase illegal cigarettes from their store. Furthermore, 69% of small retailers said plain packaging has had a negative impact on their overall business.