The Australian caught telling tobacco lies

By Barry Tucker                    17 June, 2014

The ABC’s Media Watch on Monday night, 16 June, 2014, exposed a front page story in The Australian about Australia’s plain packaging cigarette laws being a failure.

The Media Watch quoted Professor Mike Daube, the public health expert who chaired the government panel recommending the plain packaging laws:

“Every bit of the report is dodgy, from the way it was set up, to what’s in it, to the lack of analysis.”

According to Stephen Koukoulas, who has written regularly for the Australian’s stablemate, Business Spectator, tobacco consumption in the first quarter of 2014 was: “… the lowest ever recorded … It is a Great Depression for tobacco sales”. — The Kouk, 6 June, 2014.

Media Watch said the tobacco industry admitted the number of smokers fell in 2013 by 1.4% and the average number of cigarettes smoked per person also fell in 2013 by 1.4%.

The Australian’s story was written by Christian Kerr, who also writes for the conservative think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

The Australian’s editor, Clive Mathieson, told Media Watch he was “entirely comfortable” with the story.

In response to Media Watch questions, he added:

“… we are right to question the efficacy of a public health measure that credible data suggests is doing little more than encouraging smokers to switch from more expensive brands to cheaper brands”.

In another context, the phrase “entirely comfortable” was used by a Liberal MP in the federal parliament today. It’s not a phrase that I have heard commonly used previously.

You can read a transcript of the Media Watch story and a transcript of The Australian’s story provided by the ABC.