Professor Simon Chapman writes:

This week British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) launched its latest salvo in its propaganda war against plain packs.

A new website allows visitors to click on any federal electorate (“Find your electorate”).

Once inside a selected electorate we read the estimate of illegal tobacco sales, with tax foregone derived from data compiled by Deloitte in 2011.

When you estimate illegal sales, you have to base it on survey data of what smokers tell you.

BATA are thoughtful enough to link to the report itself and on page 20, we read that Deloitte sourced Roy Morgan data gathered for BATA and that at  3.1.2.1 “Key requirements of sample:  Adult participants who qualified for the survey satisfied the following criteria: Aged between 18-64 years.  Resided in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide.”

On page 39, we can see that just 949 smokers completed the survey in these cities about whether they ever used illicit tobacco.

So BATA have taken city data and applied it to every electorate around Australia.

Apparently, smuggled tobacco is as easy to buy in Oodnadatta as it is in Redfern, Toorak or Vaucluse. It’s just the same with all consumer goods, right?

Deloitte seemed prescient when it handed over the report to the tobacco industry. A caveat reads “ No one else, apart from British American Tobacco Australia Limited, Philip Morris Limited and Imperial Tobacco Australia Limited are entitled to rely on this Report for any purpose.”

That would include .. .well … everyone else.

• Simon Chapman is professor of public health at the University of Sydney

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• Meanwhile, over at The Conversation, Donald Rothwell, professor at the ANU College of Law, analyses the case that Philip Morris is launching against plain packaging under Australia’s bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong.  He doesn’t give the company much chance of success.

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