The evidence that cigarette prices and adverts affect young smokers is terribly weak. The government needs to base policy on evidence, not dogma.
By Patrick Basham
Tobacco policy currently rests on two claims: tobacco advertising and promotion are the major reasons why young people begin to smoke; and young people are particularly sensitive to the price of cigarettes. From these two claims follow the central elements of tobacco policy, namely that all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion, including tobacco displays, should be banned, and tobacco should be heavily taxed in order to prevent or at least reduce under-age tobacco use.
Unfortunately, neither of these claims nor policies meets the standards of evidence-based policymaking. Both are, instead, products of advocacy-based 'research' carried out by anti-tobacco lobby groups.
In evidence-based policymaking, as in evidence-based clinical medicine, practices and decisions are based on rigorous, systematic reviews of 'best practice', that is, therapies and interventions that work the best in reducing morbidity and mortality. Evidence, and evidence alone, not theory or tradition, drives practice.