Are Australians buying more cigarettes? > Check the facts

Plain packaging for cigarettes was introduced in Australia in 2012.

The Australian newspaper has reported that sales of cigarettes have in fact increased.

The ABC program Media Watch has refuted this claim. The program argued that ‘the rise in wholesale cigarette sales figures is almost certainly explained by retailers trying to beat a rise in tobacco tax last December [2013].’

An increase in wholesale sales does not, however, mean necessarily that Australians were buying – or smoking – more cigarettes.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports changes in consumption (the buying of) cigarettes and tobacco every three months. The graph below shows percentage changes in consumption since the three months to June 2012.

Source: ABS (2014) 5206.0, Table 20.

There was a percentage point increase in consumption of cigarettes and tobacco in the first six months of 2013. There was a decrease in the following nine months.

The increase was against trend and has not continued. The ABS reports that between March 2013 and March 2014 (the latest data) there was a decrease (-2.4 percentage points) in consumption of cigarettes and tobacco by Australians.

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