01 December 2015
IPE Study: Three years of plain packaging for tobacco products in Australia - Have the expectations been met?
(Saarland, Germany) The IPE Institute for Policy Evaluation Saarland has conducted a study on the occasion of the third anniversary of plain packaging. In December 2012, the Australian Government implemented plain packaging for tobacco products in order to curb smoking. But three years later, governmental data and related research show that neither the rate of smoking, nor tobacco consumption have declined as a result of plain packaging.
The study was commissioned by Philip Morris International.
4 August 2015
Independent expert report regarding Prof. Wolf and Prof. Kaul working papers: no basis for Oxyromandie’s defamatory campaign
(Saarbrücken, Germany) The University of Zurich had asked the independent expert Prof. Ben Jann (University of Bern, Switzerland) to assess the allegations leveled against us. The independent expert report by Prof. Jann is now available. As is clear from the conclusions of the independent expert report, there was no basis for Oxyromandie’s defamatory campaign.
On the contrary, some of OxyRomandie’s claims and methods seem “entirely unclear” to the expert Prof. Jann. Accordingly, we hope that from now on Oxyromandie will refrain from its excessively aggressive rhetoric and personal attacks.
16 February 2015
Rhetoric trumps science?
(Saarbruecken, Germany) We – Prof. Kaul from the IPE Institute for Policy Evaluation Saarland & Department of Economics at Saarland University and Prof. Wolf from the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich – ask the anti-smoking organization OxyRomandie and its president Mr. Diethelm to stop their defamatory campaign against us and the University of Zurich.
12 February 2015
IPE Research on plain packaging in Australia: Critique by Swiss anti-smoking organization OxyRomandie and reply by Prof. Kaul and Prof. Wolf
The Swiss anti-smoking organization OxyRomandie has criticized recent research by IPE researchers Prof. Kaul (Saarland University) and Prof. Wolf (University of Zurich) in a letter to the rector of the University of Zurich (UZH). We subsequently document the critique (letter to the rector and annex to the letter) as well as the reply by Professors Kaul and Wolf.
Public reply of Professors Wolf and Kaul to the OxyRomandie criqtique - 11 February 2015:
OxyRomandie/Pascal Diethelm critique - 21 January 2015:
01 July 2014
Research Released on Smoking Prevalence in Australia Following Plain Packaging
(Saarland, Germany) Yesterday, two researchers from the IPE Institute for Policy Evaluation Saarland & Department of Economics at Saarland University and from the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich have released a paper entitled “The (Possible) Effect of Plain Packaging on Smoking Prevalence in Australia: A Trend Analysis” which was commissioned by Philip Morris International.
The experts conducted a statistical trend analysis of smoking prevalence among Australians aged 14+ between January 2001 and December 2013, with the objective of determining whether there was evidence for a plain packaging effect on smoking prevalence at any time during the 13 months from December 2012 through December 2013.
Download the complete media release:
30 June 2014
UZH Working Paper No. 165 by Ashok Kaul and Michael Wolf (2014):
The (Possible) Effect of Plain Packaging on Smoking Prevalence in Australia: A Trend Analysis
A stated objective of the Australian Plain Packaging Act 2011 is to reduce smoking prevalence. We use the Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia) data set over the time period January 2001 to December 2013 to analyze whether this goal has been achieved in the first year since the implementation. In particular, we carry out a statistical trend analysis to study the (possible) effect of plain packaging on smoking prevalence. Two informative analyses help to draw conclusions on the (actual) effect of plain packaging on smoking prevalence in Australia. First, we look at the year of data before plain packaging was introduced, which happened in December 2012. Second, we compute confidence intervals around the estimated treatment effects. Our main results can be summarized as follows. First, if a statistical significance level of 5% is required, then there is no evidence at all for a plain packaging effect on smoking prevalence. Second, if one is willing to accept a relatively low level of statistical significance (that is, 10%), then there is evidence for a very short-lived plain packaging effect on smoking prevalence, namely in December 2012 only (after which smoking prevalence is statistically indistinguishable from its pre-existing trend). A formal power analysis demonstrates that the power of our inference methods is remarkably high.
Plain packaging, smoking prevalence, treatment effect, trend analysis
C13, C22, H43, I18
07 April 2014
Link to the Chantler Review
Find below the link to the Independent Review into standardised packaging of tobacco (the "Chantler Review") prepared by Sir Cyril Chantler.
05 April 2014
Meeting between Ashok Kaul, Michael Wolf, and the Plain Packaging Review Team (of the "Chantler Review") on March 20, 2014
On March 20, 2014, Ashok Kaul and Michael Wolf met with the Plain Packaging Review Team to discuss their working paper with the title "The (Possible) Effect of Plain Packaging on the Smoking Prevalence of Minors in Australia: A Trend Analysis." The transcript of the meeting can be downloaded below.
March 28 2014
Reply by Ashok Kaul and Michael Wolf to the NHS choices comment
Reply to “Plain cigarette packaging doesn't work, says industry funded study“ by Ashok Kaul and Michael Wolf, March 28, 2014
Our recent study on the effects of the “Australian Plain Packaging Act 2011” has been criticized in a comment on NHS choices [available at: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/03March/Pages/Plain-fags-packs-dont-work-says-industry-funded-study.aspx]. Below we present replies to the most important issues raised in this comment.
While we always welcome other researchers’ comments on our work, we kindly ask them to carefully read our work first before publicly criticizing it. To start with, the NHS comment is titled “Plain cigarette packaging doesn’t work, says industry funded study”. This title is an incorrect summary of our results and therefore is misleading. Being experienced empirical researchers, we took care to point out that we “fail to find any evidence for an actual plain packaging effect”, which is not the same as claiming we find evidence for no plain packaging effect. In other words, the absence of evidence for an effect should not be misconstrued as evidence for no effect. Either the author(s) of the comment is/are not aware of this fundamental distinction or the study’s claim are deliberately inflated in order to question our credibility.
On a technical level, our study is not a cross-sectional analysis but a time-series analysis. In particular, there is a cross-section of data in each month condensed into a single number (namely observed prevalence); we then analyze the resulting univariate time series (that is, the sequence of monthly observed prevalence). In particular, we do not work with yearly but with monthly data.
The disclaimer that PMI was not given access to the data by us is standard; freedom of research has been guaranteed. The study is industry-funded but the methods are standard textbook methods; any sufficiently skilled researcher should be able to replicate the results.
The NHS article also questions the reliability because the study was not peer-reviewed; this, too, is standard in research because peer-review takes time and findings are typically communicated in working papers in order to allow for a methodological debate and to disseminate findings at an early stage. Data covering a whole year after plain packaging (including December 2013) have been available only since January 2014. We will be submitting our study to a peer-reviewed outlet in due time. Given the straightforward nature of the data and the statistical methodology, we do not expect changes to the basic findings during the reviewing process.
Finally, the NHS article questions the quality of the Roy Morgan Single Source data. We appreciate the suggestions regarding the definition of the variable “smoker” as well as the referencing to census data of prevalence rates. With respect to the data used, we want to point out that single source data are of exceptionally high quality: Its sample size is twice the size of the two major official data sets, namely about 50.000 interviews per year. (NDSHS and AHS rely on about 25,000 interviews per year and are both cross-sectional data sets themselves.) It is available on a monthly basis, allowing researchers to trace month-to-month changes rather than developments in increments of several years. Also, the data have already been used to analyze smoking behavior in Australia by renowned tobacco control researchers [see e.g. Siahpush, M., Wakefield, M. A., Spittal, M. J., Durkin, S. J., & Scollo, M. M. 2009. “Taxation reduces social disparities in adult smoking prevalence.” American journal of preventive medicine, 36(4), 285–291]. Overall, we believe we have used the best currently available data set to evaluate the Australian plain packaging experiment using statistical methods.
March 26 2014
NHS choices comment on the working paper "The (Possible) Effect of Plain Packaging on the Smoking Prevalence of Minors in Australia: A Trend Analysis"
UZH Working Paper No. 149 by Ashok Kaul and Michael Wolf (2014):
The (Possible) Effect of Plain Packaging on the Smoking Prevalence of Minors in Australia: A Trend Analysis
A key stated objective of the Australian Plain Packaging Act 2011 is to influence smoking prevalence, in particular of minors. We use the Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia) data set on minors, (that is, Australians aged 14 to 17 years) over the time period January 2001 to December 2013 to analyze whether there is evidence that this goal has been achieved. We carry out a statistical trend analysis to study the (possible) effect of plain packaging on smoking prevalence of minors in Australia. More specifically, we fit a linear time trend that explains well the fact that observed smoking prevalence has declined steadily over the last 13 years. Two informative analyses help to draw conclusions on the (actual) effect of plain packaging on smoking prevalence of Australian minors. First, we look at the year of data before plain packaging was introduced, which happened in December 2012. Second, we compute confidence intervals around the estimated treatment effects (that is, around the deviations from the fitted trend line) from 12/2012 on. Both analyses fail to find any evidence for an actual plain packaging effect on Australians aged 14 to 17 years. Several reasonable variations to our methodology are discussed. All of these would only result in findings even more indicative of an absence of any plain packaging effect.
Plain packaging, smoking prevalence, treatment effect, trend analysis
C13, C22, H43, I18
(Revised Version May 2014)