Refuting tobacco industry research on plain packaging
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2016;2(April Supplement):51
Publish date: 2016-03-31
In its response to the UK government consultation on plain packaging in 2014, Philip Morris International claimed that the introduction of the measure in Australia had no effect whatsoever. The company invoked studies conducted by two professors at the University of Zürich, claiming that “the experts found no evidence that ‘standardised packaging’ had had an effect on smoking prevalence among Australians,” adding that the professors “confirmed that if there had been an effect in reality … it would have been reflected in the data.” The two studies, which were published on the UZH website as “working papers” have been criticized for their methodological defects. In a recent paper, published in Tobacco Prevention and Cessation, Diethelm and Farley re-analysed the data used by the two professors, and arrived at results, which refuted their findings. They found that a significant decline in smoking prevalence in Australia followed the introduction of plain packaging after adjustment for the impact of other tobacco control measures. The effect was even stronger than what the experts had predicted. What causes particular concern in the present case is the attitude of the University of Zürich: it opted for the "ostrich policy", hiding behind "academic freedom" to avoid assuming its responsibility when confronted with a clear attempt by the tobacco multinational to use the academic institution for manufacturing "science" favourable to its commercial interests.
Pascal A Diethelm
OxyRomandie, 2, rue de la Fontaine, CH-1204 Geneva, Switzerland