7 June 2016
A US lobby group has released a volley of attack ads targeting Australia’s plain packaging laws complete with a dubious Australian accent and copious use of permanent markers that have left policy advisers and viewers in stitches.
“In life, not everything you hear is always true” is the very prescient opening line of a three-and-a-half minute Youtube clip posted by the Property Rights Alliance.
“Especially regarding Australia’s plain packaging experiment,” or rather “ploin pickaging ex-spearmint”, warns the voice over that appears to be attempting an Australian accent.
The clips claim to debunk national data showing the success of plain packaging policies. Photo: Youtube
National plain packaging laws introduced in 2011 are an attack on “liberty” and the “very core of free societies” according to the advocacy group for intellectual property rights, which accuses the Australian government of hood winking the public by touting the success of its anti-smoking policies.
The video’s strategy for debunking Australian plain packaging data appears to be scrawling “FAILED” across nondescript documents with a fading black Texta and circling headings with a yellow highlighter.
The aim of Australia’s plain packaging laws were to “restrict consumer choice and destroy intellectual property”, the group says, as opposed to cutting the rate of deaths and serious health harms linked to tobacco use.
The anti-plain packaging ads had been viewed roughly 30,000 times. Photo: Youtube
Claiming to cite Australian government statistics, the video argues smoking rates increased following the introduction of plain packaging legislation, and youth smoking rose to 3.4% a year later.
A second clip – reminiscent of a trailer for the latest zombie apocalypse blockbuster – asks viewers to imagine a dystopian world “without brands” as governments add warning labels and clamp down of advertising of junk food, alcohol and tobacco.
Australia’s plain packaging laws were the canary in the mine for this disturbing new world of logos and advertising, voiced by a considerably more convincing British-accented woman.
Fiona Nash, the federal minister overseeing tobacco policy, said the clips’ claims were as laughable as its voice over.
“The terrible pretend Australian accent in this American ad has the same amount of credibility as the ad itself: none,” Ms Nash said.
Commenters on social media have roasted the videos, which notched up roughly 30,000 views on Youtube by Tuesday afternoon.
“His accent is the result of a smoking induced stroke,” wrote one Youtube user.
“Read the facts, watch for the lols,” wrote a Facebook user who posted the video
“That accent is about as authentic and credible as the ‘facts’ alleged.,” wrote another.
“This makes me want to play an aggressive game of knifey spoony so bad,” a reference to The Simpson’s infamous parody of Australian culture.
“… hilarious. The tobacco industry is paying millions to argue against something that, in their words ‘doesn’t work’,” wrote one commenter.
The director of Public Policy at Cancer Council Australia, Paul Grogan, said the clips betrayed the desperation of tobacco proponents to stop plain packaging legislation spreading throughout the world.
The clips were “so lacking in substance and so ludicrous that they would be laughable – if the subject matter of smoking and the death and disease it causes were not so serious,” Mr Grogan said.
“If plain packaging was making more people smoke, why wouldn’t the tobacco industry be embracing it?” he said.
Last month Britain got the go-ahead to make plain packaging for cigarettes compulsory after a court struck down a legal challenge from the world’s top tobacco companies, who argued the move would unlawfully strip them of their intellectual property.
“It would be funny, were tobacco not on track to cause a total of one billion premature deaths worldwide this century,” Mr Grogan said.
The Australian Government’s post implementation review showed that a quarter of the reduction in smoking rates since the introduction of plain packaging was attributed to the policy.
Separate research published in the British Medical Journal also showed that “plain packaging was working exactly as intended – making tobacco products look less attractive,” Mr Grogan said.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey released in 2014 recorded a decline in the smoking rate that coincided with the introduction of plain packaging laws, and the federal treasury published data showing sales of cigarettes fell after plain packaging was introduced.