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Mornings in cities in Australia and elsewhere are a microcosm of early 21st century urban lifestyle, in the making since at least the 19th century — streetscapes dominated by slow-moving cars and trucks, paths occupied by workers, smokers, snackers and runners, and cyclists negotiating traffic. This consumption-dense, movement-poor environment affects our health and our efforts to prevent and manage smoking, obesity and diabetes.

Smokers these days participate in what is increasingly an activity of the outcast — a far cry from the 1960s and 1970s, when (as recent television series remind us) smoking was integral to working and urban culture. Now, Australia’s plain packaging legislation is forcing out, at an individual level and a community level, an activity that shortens and worsens lives, and costs a great deal of money. In this issue, Daube and Chapman (doi: 10.5694/mja14.01026) spell out the clear downward impact that plain packaging has had on smoking rates. The effect is so obvious that simply presenting the facts and adhering to widely accepted editorial standards is all that is required to get the message out — qualities that The Australian doubtless aspires to as it passes its 50th birthday.

I bought and ate a very nice muffin on my way to work today, even though it was packaged very plainly and was not the product of a multinational…