Raising the price of cigarettes and increasing public education campaigns about smoking are priority actions needed to reduce the toll of tobacco in Australia, according to new report released today.
A discussion paper released by the Commonwealth Government's National Preventative Health Taskforce also lists ending all forms of tobacco promotion by mandating plain packaging of tobacco products and removing cigarette displays in shops as a key strategy aimed at getting daily smoking rates to 9% or less by 2020.
Executive Director of Quit Fiona Sharkie welcomed the discussion paper, labeling it a state-of-the-art report into addressing the huge problem of smoking in Australia.
"The battle against death and disease caused by smoking is far from over. Tobacco smoking is still the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia today so it is pleasing to see this Government acknowledge not only the scale of the problem but the importance of prevention."
"Quit absolutely supports the approach and recommendations outlined in the report. The taskforce has provided a reasonable and progressive set of measures that, if implemented as a matter of urgency, will ensure smoking is no longer Australia's leading public health problem."
Ms Sharkie said the report from the taskforce reflects evidence consistently showing that increasing in the real price of cigarettes and mass media campaigns are essential to reducing smoking rates.
"Increasing the price of cigarettes is probably the most effective intervention that can be made in tobacco control, but aside from CPI increases and the introduction of the GST in June 2000, tobacco tax has not increased in Australia in almost ten years."
"With rising costs in food, petrol and housing, tobacco is now relatively low-cost. It is cheaper to buy a packet of cigarettes than it is to go to a movie or buy a mobile phone card."
"We are pleased the taskforce has nominated raising tobacco prices as a priority measure to reduce smoking, along with strengthening and extending mass media campaigns to have adequate exposure levels so they can be as effective as possible."
Ms Sharkie also applauded the recommendation from the taskforce to mandate plain packaging on tobacco products, emphasising that a move to plain packaging is a fairly straightforward and common sense policy that could be adopted by cigarette manufacturers within a short space of time.
"By removing design elements and making packs plain we can shut down this important advertising avenue, valued hugely by the tobacco industry in their attempts to carefully target new and current smokers."