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Habits of Australian smokers 'haven't changed'

Smokers in Australia still buy the same cigarettes from the same places.

That's according to newly published research analysing the introduction of standardised packaging in the country.

Use of low cost brands imported from Asia hasn't changed much at all, according to the figures, while big supermarkets remain the destination of choice when it comes to purchasing tobacco products.

World first

Australia introduced standardised packaging for tobacco products back in December 2012 - making it the first country in the world to do so.

Experts in the tobacco industry predicted the policy would deter people from buying their tobacco from small independent retailers, prompt a rise in the availability of cheap products sourced from Asia, and increase the use of illicitly traded tobacco

Researchers wanted to find out if this was true, so decided to quiz 4,000 adult smokers in the state of Victoria.

They asked them about their tobacco purchasing habits a year before the plain packaging policy was introduced in 2011, during roll-out in 2012, and one year after implementation. In all, responses were received from just less than 2,000 smokers.

They found that:

 

  • Tobacco purchases from supermarkets increased slightly from 65.4% in 2011 to 65.7% in 2013
  • Tobacco purchases from small independent retailers jumped a little from 9% in 2012 to 11% in 2013
  • Use of low cost Asian brands fell from 1.1% in 2011 to 0.9% in 2013
  • Use of illicit unbranded tobacco fell from 2.3% in 2011 to 1.9% in 2013

 

Food for thought 

A number of other countries, including New Zealand, are currently considering the possibility of implementing standardised packaging.

The latest data, however, should make them think twice about the impact such legislation will have on smokers nationwide.

Researchers admit that the surveys were restricted to the State of Victoria, where only a quarter of the population of Australia lives, so may not be applicable elsewhere.

The fact that just 2.6% of cigarette smokers bought one or more packs that did not comply with the new regulations in 2013 is a positive. But whether or not the packaging is deterring people from lighting up altogether, reducing their risk of lung cancer and heart disease in the process, remains to be seen.

Copyright Press Association 2014