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Course: MCAT > Unit 1

Lesson 1: Critical analysis and reasoning skills (CARS) practice questions

Plain packaging tobacco


One of the latest legal challenges comes for Australia, who had the courage to move forward on what is probably the most important tobacco control measure today: plain packaging. Like in Canada with the introduction of graphic health warnings, it is easy to celebrate the victory after the fact, but it doesn’t show the world the long and hard battle it took to get there. One of the reasons the tobacco industry will fight so hard against such measures is that they tend to snowball: since 2001, when Canada introduced the first graphic health warnings, 77 jurisdictions across the world have followed suit, from India to Nepal and Turkey to Mexico. If plain packaging snowballs in a similar fashion – and we should all make sure it does – then it could spell the beginning of the end of the tobacco industry.
For those of us who don’t smoke and live in countries where tobacco packs are now hidden in shops (another crucial measure, as large displays of packages are nothing short of blatant advertising), it is hard to know how pretty, glitzy, modern and attractive tobacco packages can be. Bright blue and green like iPods, long and slender packages that look like lipstick boxes, attractive flavouring and shiny packages with alluring names: a package is a mini-billboard, that is still allowed even in nations with comprehensive advertising bans, and that is carried by the smoker, being shown to friends on repeated occasions. Plain packaging is the logical extension of an advertising ban to protect our youth and our populations, and brings a bit of truth to the world of tobacco. It forces a deadly product to be sold in a box that represents accurately the harm it can create, instead of in a shiny box that promotes an attractive lifestyle and positive values.
Plain packaging has now been in place for over two years, and we have seen smoking rates dive in Australia, as well as a rise in quitline calls, an increase in the average age of initiation to smoking (a crucial indicator, since most smokers start as children and smokers that start early have a harder time quitting) and growth in support for the measure. The industry will work hard to mask this success, but it is an obvious victory for public health to anyone willing to look at proper data. Even more promising, a series of countries are now considering plain packaging or plan to introduce it, including Norway very recently, the UK, Ireland, France, and New Zealand. While we have yet to see them implement it, such strong statements should give hope and inspire more countries to take steps towards plain packaging. The data from Australia are clear: plain packaging works.
As we enter an important year for global development and health, let’s not forget an important battle – one that is far from over. Strong, clear and progressive anti-tobacco policies are the logical thing to do and the right thing to do. The need is great and the evidence is there. But even so, we should not think this will ever be an easy fight. In the battle against tobacco, advocates have long referred to the scream test: if the industry screams high and loud, then the measure will likely be effective and save lives. For plain packaging, never has the industry screamed louder. We should all take note, remain focused and make sure we continue to make progress in this important global effort.
It can be inferred from the passage that the author most likely believes that once plain packaging goes global:
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