Each year, smoking kills an estimated 15,000 Australian and costs Australia $31.5 billion in social (including health) and economic costs. Tobacco smoking is a leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia. In Western Australia over 1,500 people die from smoking-related causes each year.
This year the World Health Organization (WHO) is also drawing attention to the role of plain packaging of tobacco products as part of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control, including comprehensive bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship and graphic health warnings. We do this for a very good reason: plain packaging works. New evidence from Australia, the first country to fully implement plain packaging, shows that changes to tobacco packaging has led to over 100,000 fewer smokers in Australia in the first 34 months since implementation in 2012. Evidence also shows that plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products. It restricts tobacco advertising and promotion. It limits misleading packaging and labelling and it increases the effectiveness of health warnings.
Furthermore, ahead of World No Tobacco Day tomorrow (31 May 2016), the Cancer Council Western Australia has released the results of a survey conducted of smokers before the first round of price increases in 2013 which asked them to predict how they thought a price increase would affect them. The survey findings indicate the actual effect was twice as large as smokers predicted – only 20% thought it would make a difference to them, and the price increases have made a difference to 40 per cent of smokers surveyed.
With the 2016 federal budget announcement delivered, the government has taken steps in a move aimed to deter tobacco use. The Government announced it would hit smokers with four annual 12.5% increases to tobacco excise and excise equivalent customs duties which will significantly push up the over-the counter price. The limit to the purchase of duty-free cigarettes will also be slashed in half from July 2017, dropping from just 50 cigarettes to 25. The first hike to tobacco prices will arrive on September 1 next year and then follow every 12 months until 2020. It is expected this will push packet prices up from about $25 per pack to about $40 by 2020.