Researchers quick to bat against tobacco lobby

A University of Otago researcher has hit back at comments by a tobacco industry spokesman who said plain packaging would not reduce tobacco consumption.

On Wednesday British American Tobacco (BAT) general manager Steve Rush responded to the findings of Otago University's Aspire2025 research group, which found that two-thirds of respondents supported plain packaging. Mr Rush said the research did not prove plain packaging would reduce tobacco consumption.

"The research is attitudinal and is based on opinions. It's about how people think they might behave in the future. It's not about how people actually behave," he said.

Tobacco packaging did not influence why people started smoking or quitted, he said.

Prof Janet Hoek, from university's marketing department, hit back yesterday, saying Mr Rush's remarks about her team's research were "illogical, unsupported" and ignored a "well-established evidence base".

"He has trotted out the same tired arguments in a failed attempt to disguise the fact that there is very strong public support for plain packaging, and very little sympathy for the arguments his company is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to promote.

"We know from experimental work that plain packaging greatly reduces the perceived and actual experience of smoking," Prof Hoek said.

She also noted that tobacco companies had opposed every evidence-based tobacco control measure, from the removal of mass-media advertising, to the requirement for tobacco packages to feature graphic health warnings.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz