Channel 10 Breakfast - Tobacco plain packaging
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12 September 2012
Channel 10 Breakfast
Topics: Tobacco plain packaging
Paul Henry: As you heard in the news, plain-packaged cigarettes hit the stores today. Mostly they'll be delivered around midday to the smaller stores, maybe some of the bigger stores will have them before that, in case you want to go and have a look at a change in cigarettes.
Tanya Plibersek is responsible for this change, largely. The Minister for Health joins me now. Tanya, good morning to you and congratulations again, all happens today.
You're not happy with a couple of the companies though who are, if you like, testing the water.
Tanya Plibersek: That's right. Look, the plain packaging has to start by law from December and some companies are managing to get plain packs into the store earlier than that but they're not the plain packs that we're expecting.
One brand has got a sort of row of cigarette packets and they tear off the old branding and it's got the old - the new plain packaging shown underneath and it says it's what's
on the inside that counts.
Paul Henry: Now, that has really aggravated you, hasn't it, that line?
Tanya Plibersek: Well, yes, we know what's on the inside. We used to call them cancer sticks when I was a kid. What's on the inside is heart disease, lung disease, all sorts of illness and I think these last kind of desperate attempts from Big Tobacco to keep promoting their brand as though it's something special just shows how effective plain packaging will be.
Paul Henry: Sure but you must have expected this. We're talking about Imperial Tobacco, Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes in this instance, and you must have expected this. I mean, with me, of the two that you call into account here, the other one being Philip Morris and their Bond Street cigarettes, the Peter Stuyvesant ones are nowhere near as serious because obviously they know it doesn't meet your requirements and this is an interim marketing measure.
Tanya Plibersek: Well, it is an interim measure and that's also, I think, quite interesting because we had all the cigarette companies saying at the beginning that they couldn't possibly meet our time frames for change in their printing arrangements.
Paul Henry:Now all of a sudden they can introduce a whole new packet…
Tanya Plibersek: They couldn't possible get to…
Paul Henry: Yes.
Tanya Plibersek: Yes, now they can vary it every couple of weeks to fit in with their advertising schedule. Look, I guess you could call it the last gasp, the last
desperate attempts of Big Tobacco to keep advertising but I just want to send a message that we will be policing plain packaging very closely because there's one thing
we know, that young people are the ones most affected by the packaging and by the advertising and no parent wants their kid to start smoking.
Paul Henry: Sure.
Can we just very quickly talk about Philip Morris and the Bond Street cigarettes?
Because to me, and I've seen photographs of it, I haven't admittedly held a packet…
Tanya Plibersek: Yes.
Paul Henry: but to me it looks pretty much like a plain packet and you, in fact, have said - it's been said it heavily resembles what you are expecting.
Tanya Plibersek: Yes.
Paul Henry: Is it or is it not in breach, do you think?
Tanya Plibersek: I'm getting some legal advice about the images themselves. It looks to me like the images may not comply. There are some font changes and some additional text that they've got on there that they're going to have to get rid of.
It might sound petty but what I want to be very clear about is that these rules are strict for a reason. If we let Bond Street have some variation…
Paul Henry: Yes, sure.
Tanya Plibersek: …then the next brand some other variation and a third brand another variation, that defeats the purpose of plain packaging.
Paul Henry: When will we know if this has actually made any difference at all?
Tanya Plibersek: Oh, well, I think we'll know in years' time, not months' time, because what we're trying to do is stop young people taking up smoking and reduce the attractiveness for existing smokers.
We've seen a lot of success over the years in reducing smoking rates in Australia.
We're down at around 15 per cent of Australians as daily smokers now and that's from 20 years ago, that was around 30 per cent, so we've had big successes in recent years with all of our measures and really time will be the test of this.
This is not something that…
Paul Henry: When you say years, do you mean…
Tanya Plibersek: …you flip a switch and…
Paul Henry: Do you mean sort of in a year, in maybe a year and a half? We should know because obviously you're saying specifically this is aimed at preventing younger people from taking up smoking and becoming hooked so it shouldn't be much more than a year, should it?
Tanya Plibersek: Oh, no, I don't think it's fair to say if this hasn't changed smoking rates in a year it's not a success. This is something for the long term for us. We obviously watch the figures very closely and young people in particular are the ones that I'm concerned about because I don't want a new generation of smokers.
Paul Henry: Sure, sure. The health [sic] companies, you know, Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris, they'll be watching the figures very closely too and if there's no change they'll be the first to publicise that.
Can I just…
Tanya Plibersek: You know what? If there was going to be no change, if they weren't worried about a drop-off in their business, they would not have fought us so hard in the courts.
Paul Henry: Yes.
Tanya Plibersek: And they would not have gone to such lengths to change their packaging now.
Paul Henry: But of course you're worried about - you're focused on the sheer number of people who smoke whereas the tobacco companies are only focused on their share of the market.
Tanya Plibersek: That's not true.
Paul Henry: So I think what they worry mostly about here is that they will lose…
Tanya Plibersek:: No, no.
Paul Henry: …share of the market.
Tanya Plibersek: They always say it's about market share but that is not - that is not true. They are always trying to recruit new smokers.
We see them in developing countries giving cigarettes away to children because they know that that's their next market. They are always trying to recruit new smokers as well.
The market share argument is their argument, not ours.
Paul Henry: All right, Tanya, thank you very much for joining us. We will watch it closely, Tanya Plibersek, the Minister for Health.
Tanya Plibersek: Thank you.
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