The Australian waded into the tobacco packaging debate with a series of blunt assertions, then responded to the counter-evidence by digging in.
On 6 June this year, the front page of Murdoch’s local flagship, the Australian, was dominated by an “exclusive” report headlined, “Evidence ‘World’s Toughest Anti-Smoking Laws’ Not Working: Labor’s Plain Packaging Fails As Cigarette Sales Rise.” According to the paper’s Christian Kerr, “Labor’s nanny state push to kill off the country’s addiction to cigarettes with plain packaging has backfired, with new sales figures showing tobacco consumption growing during the first full year of the new laws.”
The one piece of hard evidence in the article was an Australian survey commissioned by the tobacco industry to be used in lobbying against the introduction of plain packaging laws in Britain. More problematic than the provenance of the data is the fact that only selected snippets were available, which makes it difficult to evaluate its overall worth and meaning. Except for a single-paragraph denial from the Labor shadow minister, Kerr’s entire article pointed in the one direction, that the policy was having no effect. The owner of a convenience store, for example, was quoted, but no public health experts were called on for their views. A later story reported the declaration by a “proud” Brisbane smoker that the policy had had no effect on her…
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