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June 30th, 2011:

Australia’s world first plain packs legislation

Read the two bills  here (substantive bill) and  here (trademarks bill) – and all  submissions to the public consultation, June 2011

House of Reps inquiry 2011 with submissions, transcripts

Social media the new battleground in the war against Big Tobacco

30 June 2011

Big Tobacco is taking its aggressive marketing online and those fighting to curb smoking rates need to follow suit.Photo: Craig Abraham

Sun Tzu wrote that “all warfare is based on deception”. This maxim seems to have been taken to heart by Big Tobacco as it seeks to use the fight over plain packaging, which is destined for the courts, to distract from a more important advertising realm – social media.

From the perspective of Big Tobacco, a federal government ban on plain packaging is not the greatest threat it faces. Far from it. Plain packaging is like the killing of Osama Bin Laden – an important and sweet victory for coalition forces – but not the main game. The danger to our anti-smoking heroes is that if they focus all their efforts on this battle, then the enemy may outflank them.

The real fight is quickly unfolding in social media. Evidence is emerging, including from the World Health Organization and the University of Sydney’s Becky Freeman and Simon Chapman, that Big Tobacco is moving its estimated annual marketing spend of tens of billions of dollars online – and fast.

The incredible growth of “consumer driven” online fan groups for the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel, plus viral YouTube content and slick sponsorships are evidence of the marshalling of the troops on this front. Brands are being strengthened and smoking initiated with the help of social media. The government and public health campaigners are engaged in these fights yet distraction from them could give Big Tobacco the time it needs to dig trenches, secure allies and settle in for the long term. It is in the interests of Big Tobacco to keep the campaign focused on the plain-packaging front.

Of course the fight for plain packaging must be won, as many assume it will. But anti-smoking advocates, including government, should also consider what mix of limited public resources is most effective. Policy makers often argue that the best solutions to problems are better regulation. And in many cases they are right, including on smoking.

Some efforts are made to complement regulation with public awareness campaigns and appeals to industry, however, often these are ineffective and sometimes add to the problem. Typically this returns the focus to regulations. Yet in the complex online world, regulation will take a long time to catch up as control shifts from companies and governments to users, consumers and citizens.

But there is good news for those fighting the good fight. While anti-smoking policy makers grapple with the application of conventions and regulations to social media, there is evidence that beating Big Tobacco at their own game through social marketing is effective at preventing smoking initiation, especially among young people.

Both anti-smoking advocates and Big Tobacco are fighting the plain-packaging battle because they start from the same premise – marketing works. However, an entrenched resistance to marketing among many policymakers is proving to be one of the biggest barriers to success in the war against Big Tobacco. Rather than resist marketing, anti-smoking campaigners should trust evidence that marketing can help convert consumers to healthier lifestyles. And this could hold the key to success in the difficult-to-regulate social media realm.

Success from social marketing campaigns shows us the way to beat Big Tobacco. These include the Truth (anti-smoking) program from the US which, according to George Washington University’s W. Douglas Evans, is building its brand through social media with positive images of non-smoking youth as cool and confident rebels fighting against the tobacco industry. Others include the Queensland alcohol campaign “Becky’s not drinking”, the SunSmart campaign against skin cancer “Slip! Slop! Slap! and many others. These campaigns were successful because they understood the barriers and benefits to behaviours, how influence is disseminated and they didn’t wag their fingers or treat people as stupid. These campaigns built brands that people trust.

The concepts of connection, dissemination and trust are the fundamentals of social media, where Big Tobacco is starting to assert dominance. If we concentrate our limited resources on regulation over plain packaging and not enough in social media, we risk being distracted by Big Tobacco and losing the war against smoking.

Nicholas Goodwin works in social marketing and international development and is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney’s Department of Media and Communications in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He tweets using @nickgoodwin.

Read more:

Great wall of loopholes keeps China’s last gasp at bay

Last year, China’s tobacco industry generated $A89 billion in revenue and
contributed $A74 billion in taxes, almost 7 per cent of total tax revenue.
The number of cigarettes it produces still grows, up 40 per cent in a decade

Read more:

BMA conference backs doctors call for ban on smoking in cars

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Doctors at the BMA’s annual conference are urging UK governments to introduce legislation to ban smoking while driving a motor vehicle.

They also passed a motion demanding that tobacco companies be forced to publish all payments to politicians and political organisations.

And during a debate on alcohol policy they once again called on the UK governments to introduce a realistic minimum price for alcohol.

Speaking in favour of the motion on smoking in vehicles, Northern Ireland Junior Doctors Committee Chairman Dr David Farren said: “I really like this motion, as it would improve transparency and perhaps highlight the political agenda of tobacco companies”. And Dr Charles Saunders, joint deputy chairman of the BMA’s Scottish Council speaking after the debate said:

“Tobacco smoke is a potent cocktail of over 4,000 toxins, including 50 known to cause cancer. Smoking in the confined space of a car is therefore a toxic threat to health and people sharing a car with a smoker will be exposed to in-car particle concentrations 27 times higher than in a smokers home and 20 times higher than the levels found in a smoky pub before the ban on smoking in public places was introduced. Rolling down the window does not eliminate this risk.

“Children exposed to smoking in cars will be at risk of the harmful effects of second hand smoke including persistent wheeze and respiratory disorders.

He said that the British Lung Foundation estimate that more than half of 8 to 15 year olds have been exposed to smoking in cars and 86% of children want people to stop smoking when they are in the car.

“There is an increasing awareness amongst the general population of the risks of exposure to second hand smoke and banning smoking in cars is another way in which we can protect non-smokers from the risk of harm from second hand smoke.

On the motion calling for a realistic minimum price for alcohol Dr Sue Robertson, a renal physician and member of the BMA’s Scottish Council, said: “I am delighted that doctors across the UK supported the motion as it sends a clear message to politicians at Westminster and in the devolved nations. A new bill for minimum pricing in Scotland is expected in the autumn and I hope this, as part of a wider alcohol strategy, will lead the rest of the UK in taking the much needed steps to tackle our country’s culture of excessive drinking.”