Reducing the incidence of smoking Essay Example

Executive Summary

Plain cigarette packaging is a policy by the government to control the incident of smoking. The reason for such a legislation include minimizing the risks associated with smoking caused by the high levels of consumption and the enormous health risks cigarettes impose to the Australians. The report highlights that the Plain cigarette packaging is not effective in terms of reducing smoking incidence as indicated by the lack of credible evidence. The report also highlights the various alternative options to Plain cigarette packaging including the adoption of extensive smoke-free legislations, putting in place restrictions on the advertisements and displays involving cigarettes, and the adoption of e-cigarettes.


In 2012, the commonwealth government of Australia introduced plain packaging to cigarettes, a policy designed to reduce the level of smoking in the community. Due to what was entailed in the policy, the move generated heated discussions. This particular report intends to provide an explanation regarding whether or not such a policy might be effective and the economic rationale of such a policy. In addition, the paper also intends to highlight whether there are alternative policies that could be put in place to reduce the incidence of smoking in the community.

Plain cigarette packaging was an initiative by the Australian government to control the consumption of cigarettes based on the well-known health facts associated with cigarette smoking. According to (2010), involuntary cigarette smoking exposure alone accounted for approximately 63,667 bed days in hospital in 2004, as a result leading to a significant cost of $33.7.An astounding 90% ($30.6)of the above cost was as a result of involuntary smoke exposure-related illnesses among children below 15 years. As such, due to the high levels of consumption and the enormous health risks cigarettes impose to the Australians, the plain cigarette packaging legislation was put in place. The legislation received divided opinions in terms of its effectiveness.

Smoking Trend (2001-2012)

reducing the incidence of smoking

As highlighted in the graph, high levels of the smoking behaviour are prevalent among the youths aged between 18-34 years (22%). There has been a significant rise in the smoking incdences with the consequent increase in age among the youths aged 18-34 years within the specified year intervals (2001, 2007-08, and 2011-12). Contrary to this, the older generations, especially from 45-75 years have recorded a massive decline in the smoking behaviour.

Opinions on the Legislation

reducing the incidence of smoking 1

As highlighted in the table above, 77% of people agreed that large warnings should be on cigarettes packages while also arguing that attractive packages lured individuals to smoking (57%. 20% agreed with the industry claims that this legislation is unfair, while 54% had disagreements with this statement. Despite the great disagreements, Hoek et al (2012) adds that a sizeable minority (20%) believed that the legislation would deter the smoking behaviour while additionally arguing that it would not promote cessation. In addition, the legislation’s support from non-smokers was 30% higher than from smokers. The difference in opinions is huge and has been statistically significant.

According to Wakefield (2008), studies comparing the current branded cigarette packages with the plain ones revealed that plain packages are considerably unattractive. In addition, a study investigating the use of plain cigarette packages among the youths revealed that plain packaging created negative perceptions regarding smoking. Plain packages as well promoted less smoking around peer groups, hiding of packages, as well as limiting smoking while contemplating to quit, as highlighted by Moodie (2011). In general, nearly 50% of those investigated reported an increase in the highlighted behaviours and a significant reduction in cigarette consumption. On the basis of the above findings, plain packaging is considered to be effective in reducing smoking incidence.

Padilla (2010) however argues that there is no sound evidence to support the effectiveness of the policy on plain cigarette packaging. As Clarke & Prentice (2010) highlights, plain packaging of cigarettes would only transform the legal Australian tobacco industry into a commodity business charging lower prices. According to the economic principles people choose alternatives with most benefits and least costs, therefore, the lower prices of the same commodity would likely escalate the smoking incidence contrary to reducing the incidence. The reduction in product differentiation within this market will further heighten price competition, translating into lower prices for cigarette consumers.

On the other hand, all choices have costs. Whereas the Australian government intended to significantly cut on the smoking incidence, this decision would involve very high costs in terms of incurred expenses and opportunity costs`. The decision will cost the government over $85 million in terms anti-smoking campaigns, with $27.8 million targeted at the high-risked and the highly disadvantaged individuals (Australian Government, 2012).Further, the government would loose massively on the revenues generated from the thriving tobacco industry, which substantially adds to the economic basket of the nation. Additionally, the policy will cause market penetration of non-branded commodities easier, thereby increasing competition as well as a further reduction of prices. This will facilitate easier and cheaper method of producing counterfeit cigarettes selling at relatively cheaper price in comparison to legitimate products. In the end, the decision seems not a viable option.

As highlighted by Ministry of Health (2012), there are a number of alternative policies that could be put in place to reduce the incidence of smoking in the community. One of the alternative policies is the adoption of extensive smoke-free legislations in order to guide comprehensive tobacco-control programme managed by the health ministry. Another move would be putting in place restrictions on the advertisements as well as displays involving cigarettes. This can include strict restrictions on sponsorships contributions by the tobacco firms, banning cigarette advertisements; ensuring health warning messages are on every cigarette packages, and controlling the cigarette pack sizes. On the other hand, as highlighted by Trtchounian (2010), with the current technological developments, the traditional cigarettes are already being replaced by a smoke-free healthy version, e-cigarette, that also delivers nicotine.


Economic theory indicates that plain packaging weakens the existing brands, hence hindering product differentiation. Economic theory hypothesize that it increases competition, leading to a fall in cigarette prices. The reduction leads to increased cigarette consumption, hence, the plain cigarette policy is argued as ineffective in terms of reducing the incidence of cigarette smoking.


> May, 2013 from <stAustralian Government, 2012, Plain Packaging of Tobacco products, Retrieved on 21

Clarke, H & Prentice, D, 2012,’Will Plain Packaging Reduce Cigarette Consumption?’Economic Papers 31(3), Pp.303-318

Hoek, P. et al, 2012,Strong public support for plain packaging of tobacco products, Australian And New Zealand Journal Of Public Health, 36 (5)

Moodie, C, MacKintosh, A. M, Hastings, G, Ford, A, 2011, «Young Adult Smokers’ Perceptions of Plain Packaging: A pilot naturalistic study». Tobacco Control 20 (5): 367–373.

Ministry of Health, 2012, Proposal to Introduce Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products in New Zealand: Consultation Document. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Padilla, J, 2010, The Impact of Plain Packaging of Cigarettes in Australia: A Simulation Exercise. A Report for Philip Morris International

12 (9), Pp.905-912.
Trtchounian, A, Williams, M & Talbot, P, 2010, Conventional and Electronic Cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have Different Smoking Characteristics,

> May, 2013 from <, 2010, Smoking Statistics, Retrieved on 19

Wakefield, M. A, Germain, D, Durkin, S. J, 2008,»How does Increasingly Plainer Cigarette Packaging Influence Adult Smokers’ Perceptions about Brand Image? An Experimental Study». Tobacco Control 17 (6): 416–421.