While the bulk of the focus from the March quarter national accounts was on the remarkably good 1.1 per cent growth in real GDP, buried in the data tables was information on the amount (volume) of tobacco consumed by the household sector.
The news on smoking was just fantastic.
It revealed that the consumption of tobacco fell by 2.8 per cent in the March quarter building on falls in each of the previous six quarters.
Since the plain packaging laws for cigarette packets was introduced in December 2011, the volume of tobacco consumed in Australia has fallen a staggering 27.3 per cent.
Think about it – for every 100 packets of cigarettes that were sold at the end of 2011, now only 73 are being sold.
With population growth of around 7 per cent, that is a one-third fall in per capita smoking.
This is just fantastic. The health benefits to individuals are huge, the savings to the health budget are also likely to be significant, with gains to productivity as a result of a healthier workforce also significant.
To be sure, factors other than plain packaging would have influenced the decline in tobacco consumption in recent years. The death of over 60,000 smokers from smoking related diseases over that time is a source of lower demand. The impact of advertising bans, government sponsored health campaigns and the quite massive hike in tobacco excise are all likely to have been important.
What ever the proportionate contribution of each policy, the decline if smoking is a huge victory for well directed public policy.
And it makes a mockery of the claims of the anti-government zealots at The Australian – Sloan, Ergas, Kerr, Merritt, Creighton, Davison – that the plain packaging laws did not work.