Australia hints at a ban on cigarette sales under draft smoking strategy


Australia hints at a ban on cigarette sales as new survey shows the majority of Aussies want them removed from shelves

  • Australia could move to ban cigarettes to certain age groups by 2030 
  • The hint was made in Australia’s consultation draft national tobacco strategy 
  • Australia already has the highest cigarette prices in the world

Australia could move to ban cigarette sales to certain age groups by 2030, if recommendations from the draft national tobacco strategy are given the go ahead.

Australia’s 2022-2030 consultation draft smoking strategy proposes to ‘consider the feasibility of raising the minimum age of purchase of tobacco products and monitor international developments on this matter’. 

A group of friends enjoying a pint and a cigarette on a Thursday night at a Sydney pub

 

It also considers banning or further restricting the sale of tobacco products online.

Responsibility for implementing the policy will be a matter for state governments once the draft strategy goes through the consultation stage and is released.

It comes as a national survey, conducted by the Cancer Council, revealed the majority of Aussies would support a policy that stops retailers from selling cigarettes.

Only 16.1 per cent of surveyed Australians said a ban would be a ‘bad thing’, 50.8 per cent supported the phase-out, while 61.8 per cent said it should happen within the next decade.

Within the study, 75.3 per cent of surveyed Australians also supported the idea of stricter licensing regulations for retailers, while 76.3 per cent wanted more sales restrictions in places where children could enter.

Director of Quit Victoria Dr Sarah White says she expects fewer retailers to stop stocking cigarettes regardless of the ban.

‘I think that the market might just get to a point where the retailers say ‘There’s not enough people buying these products, it’s something I have to lock away, it costs me a lot to keep under my counter, we might just give it away ourselves,’ she told 3AW.

What you could have bought instead of a weekly $40 pack of smokes

  • Two six-packs of VB beer or four pints at any pub in Australia
  • An unlimited calls, 10GB data mobile phone plan for a couple
  • A day at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo
  • Two movie tickets at most cinemas
  • A kilo of rump steak from Coles

‘I’ve talked to quite a few retailers who are saying they’re not sure whether they want to stay in the business because it’s not a very profitable business for them.’ 

Australia is already home to the most expensive cigarettes in the world, with a typical 20-pack costing $40. 

That means those who smoke a pack a day will be shelling out about $12,500 a year for their habit – more than any other country in the world. 

The Australian government rakes in about $17billion dollars a year in tobacco tax.

This has led to a surge in the black market tobacco trade as organised crime syndicates flood the Australian market with cheap smokes.

The illegal tobacco trade is worth about 600million dollars annually, according to the Australian Border Force.

Late last year, New Zealand banned young people from ever being allowed to buy cigarettes in a rolling scheme that aims to make the entire country smoke-free. 

People aged 14 and under in 2027 will never be allowed to purchase cigarettes in their lifetime in the Pacific country of five million, under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s radical new laws.

‘We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth,’ associate health minister Ayesha Verrall said.

However, the new law will not impact vaping, with Dr Verrall saying tobacco smoking is more harmful and remains a leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand, killing up to 5,000 people each year.

The measures will make New Zealand’s retail tobacco industry one of the most restricted in the world, just behind Bhutan where cigarette sales are banned outright.  

Officials in New Zealand have not said how they plan to police the ban, nor which retailers would be barred from selling tobacco products. 

At the moment, tobacco retailers face fines of between NZ$500 and NZ$1,000 for selling cigarettes to minors.

Although many experts have welcomed the move, others have warned that it could cause a ‘gradual prohibition’ and create a black market for tobacco, prompting a crime wave. 

WHY ARE CIGARETTES SO EXPENSIVE IN AUSTRALIA?

Smokers have been slugged with five consecutive 12.5 per cent tobacco excise increases since 2013. 

A further hike of that size has now been introduced on September 1.  

The last Labor government first introduced the massive tax hikes. The policy was matched by Liberal Treasurer Scott Morrison in 2016.    

In Budget papers, Mr Morrison’s government claimed ‘one of the most effective ways to discourage smoking is to increase the price of cigarettes.  

‘Increases in tobacco excise over the last two decades have contributed to significant declines in the number of people smoking daily.’

But the consumption of cigarettes rose for the first time in more than a decade in the final quarter of 2017, deviating from a long term trend.

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