Hidden away in the quarterly national accounts are data on the volume of tobacco consumed in Australia.

The excellent news is that in the June quarter 2016, the volume of tobacco consumed fell 2.3 per cent to be at the lowest level ever recorded in the national accounts, which has data going all the way back to 1959.

More remarkable is the five-fold increase in the population over this time which means the fall in per capita smoking levels are even more acute.

The plain packaging laws for cigarette packets were introduced in December 2012, even though the Liberal and National Parties voted again them (sort of cute in the current debate to note the donations to the Coalition parties from tobacco companies, but that is another matter).

The shadow Health Minister at the time the legislation introducing plain packaging went through the Parliament, Peter Dutton, was doubtful weather the laws would work, when in 2011 he called on the government to prove that plain packaging would cut smoking levels. He said “We would like to see the evidence the government in replying on.”

Well, in the less than four years that the plain packaging laws have been in place, the volume of tobacco consumed in Australia has fallen a staggering 25 per cent. It is a great depression in tobacco consumption, driven in part by the plain packaging laws.

Also important, no doubt, are the impact of the excise hike, the death of more than 50,000 people since the end of 2012 from smoking related illness (they aren’t buying many smokes there days) and the lagged effects of advertising bans, health warnings and community understanding of the risks from tobacco consumption.

It is amazing, staggering and unbelievable that in the early 1960s, 20 per cent of household consumption (in volume terms) was on tobacco. 

Now it is down to 1.3 per cent and declining rapidly.

It just goes to show that a well targeted, well framed mix of targeted public policy can achieve desirable aims.

Anyone for a sugar tax and banning of junk food advertising to deal with the obesity epidemic?