Plain packaging has not driven smokers to buy cheap imports or illicit tobacco, or to favour discount retailers over corner stores, a study published today in the journal BMJ Open has found.
This puts to bed claims by tobacco companies that plain packs would put smokers in danger because of poor imports and hurt small, local retailers because of longer dispensing times.
The Cancer Council Victoria study, led by senior policy adviser Michelle Scollo, set out to test the claims using the annual smoking behaviour study.
So much of our buying behaviour is about insuring ourselves against a scary world and a frightening future. The technique is so common, you’ve probably heard it all before.
But for the uninitiated, when it comes to fear, the marketers’ approach goes something like this:
Step 1. The Problem
Invent a problem
Promote the problem
Get someone in authority to convince consumers that it must be a problem.
Step 2. The Solution
Create an easy and stress-free solution (the product)
Perhaps add a bit of science and maybe some stats to give it some credibility
Argue that all that they were doing is responding to consumer needs
Working on the ABC Radio National program, Talking Shop, has reminded me how important it is to not just look for evidence that supports your position. Knowing that you are broadcasting to a diverse, highly intelligent, and sometimes strongly opinioned audience, is a good reminder to be confident in your arguments, and also in your opinions.
Doing the show has reinforced the idea that we do need to be vigilant about the confirmation bias, which is the very human tendency to focus on data and information that confirms our currently held beliefs, and ignore (or dismiss) data that challenges it.