Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun have taken their website behind a paywall, but one reader of yesterday’s print edition decided, after a visit to the local Costa Coffee, to leave it behind, a move that is entirely understandable, given the quality of the content, or lack of it. So the contents of Pages 22 and 23 have found their way to Zelo Street.
And what they reveal is that the Murdoch press is up to the same misleading tactic that got The Australian called out by Paul Barry on ABC Media Watch last month. Yes, once again, dear Uncle Rupe is so concerned about the health of his readers that he wants more of them to take up smoking. “Will new laws make smoking cool again?” asks the headline, to which the answer is no.
Readers are told “new figures from Oz seem to show that sales of ciggies have increased since the ban on branding and standardisation of packaging came into force”, and particular attention should be paid to the word “seem”, because we have been here before. Here’s what I said last month.
“There was an increase in the number of cigarettes manufactured and sold on to retailers, but this was almost certainly down to those retailers wanting to beat an increase in the tobacco tax”. The reality? “Between the last quarter of 2012, when plain packaging was introduced, and the first quarter of 2014, tobacco consumption had fallen by 5.3%. The tobacco industry has admitted that the number of smokers fell last year by 1.4%, with those that still smoke consuming 1.4% less in tobacco”.
This has not prevented a corker of an excuse being pushed by the Sun: “the tobacco industry is claiming the hard-hitting plain packaging has actually made smoking seem even cooler ... Because as all parents of teenagers know, making something seem illicit often just makes it all the more attractive”. And to that I call bullshit: it’s not being subject to prohibition. You can still buy cigarettes legally.
... and this is why
The Sun’s Big Tobacco apologia is backed up with the usual tired drivel: there will, it is alleged, be a gap in the market which will be occupied by smugglers. Except that, as already pointed out, cigarettes will still not be illegal, and so you will still be able to buy them at your local corner shop or supermarket. The reality that the industry doesn’t want to get out is that consumption is falling.
Moreover, those still smoking are switching to cheaper brands, doubling the profit hit on Big Tobacco. And the Sun’s copy has barrel-scraping moments, such as quoting a shopkeeper who says “It would make life even harder for shopkeepers by making products more difficult to find”. How? They’re in a closed cabinet behind the counter. And still will be, whatever the packaging. This is truly lame stuff.
Still, it’s consistently lame. And, thanks to Media Watch, we’ve been forewarned.