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Cheers - AE

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Smoked fishiness - UPDATED

En bloc from The Australian:
Australians back plain cigarette packs

MOST Australians support the introduction of plain cigarette packets, with only about a quarter opposing the plan, a new survey shows.

Commissioned by the Cancer Council, the Newspoll telephone survey of 1200 people found almost 59 per cent approved of the Federal Government's push for plain cigarette packaging.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents disapproved of the measure.

Cancer Council spokeswoman Caroline Miller said plain cigarette packets were backed by the science and the public.

"From what we know now, there is no valid reason to oppose plain packaging," she said today.

"The evidence is there, the community support is there and the desperate campaign being waged by the tobacco industry is further indication that it should work."

Labor wants to introduce plain packaging for all cigarettes from mid-2012 but the Opposition is yet to declare whether it will support the move.
As is so often the case with these things the actual questions asked and the context they were in are not reported, and that rings alarm bells. Were there one or more leading questions? Were there restricted choices on Who knows, since what's actually been reported appears to have been taken pretty at face value from a Cancer Council PR embargoed until 00:01 on the 29th May (just over an hour ago here) and amusingly leaked here two days ago. The PR doesn't offer any hints as to what was asked either. There is currently nothing on the Cancer Council's website about the survey, and there is nothing on Newspoll's website either. The lack of openness and the difficulty in finding out what was actually asked along with the fact that the survey was commissioned by a body which is extremely partisan on the issue, oh, and also my personal experience of not having met one single person who thinks it's a good idea - not one - being the polar opposite of 'most Australians support plain packs' all makes me wonder how reliable this survey is. In short, I wonder if it's had the Yes, Prime Minister treatment.

Incidentally, the Cancer Council's PR had one of their mouthpieces actually say (my bold):
“... it’s very encouraging to see that plain packaging is supported by the community, as well as by the science.”
The "science"? Science as in a survey with undisclosed methodology and a tiny sample size? Or science as in "experimental studies where subjects have typically been presented with both branded and mocked‐up plain packs and asked about associations and preferences" (PDF - p11) since there is no actual empirical data on the effects of plain packaging, nobody having been mad enough to do it up 'til now? Obviously I realise that the point I've made on this blog over and over and over again - that all illegal drugs, including illegal tobacco, are already sold in plain packaging and with no branding even possible beyond "the stuff that Dave-o gets" or similar, and that the people in that trade have no difficulty in maintaining a market for their products or attracting new consumers - is not a scientific one, the word "science" having become a cheap whore for any self-righteous, authoritarian, bastard wowser who feels like deploying it as a magic word to win an argument.

No, the point that drugs or any other commodity for which there is a demand do not suffer from plain packaging is not scientific, and the way the word is sometimes used these days I feel proud that it is not scientific. It's fucking factual, which I consider to be a hell of a lot better.

UPDATE - an hour or so later and I've just realised something. Neither The Aussie nor any other news website I seen which has the press release cum propaganda piece dressed as a news story had comments enabled at the time I wrote this. Perhaps a large number of commenters would have opposed the plain packs plan giving doubt to the claims being made, and perhaps not. Make of it what you will.
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