A bit slow to butt out
AUSTRALIA is in danger of missing its goal of reducing the smoking rate to 10 per cent despite big tobacco sneakily raising cigarette prices beyond increases in excise.
The Cancer Council Australia attributes the slowdown in quitting with a “major reduction” in anti-smoking advertising.
Philip Morris International is using the trend to push for legalisation of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine — in which it has invested $4 billion globally.
Federal, state and territory governments in 2012 committed to cutting smoking rates to 10 per cent by the end of 2018.
But Australia’s accounts show smokers spent $100 mil- lion more on cigarettes in the final three months of 2017 compared with a year earlier — the first increase since 2004.
Philip Morris International general counsel Marc Firestone said: “The prevalence of smoking in Australia has of course come down significantly. The question is whether it is going to hover around the 12.5 or 12 per cent for a number of years — and there are some indications it might.’’
Philip Morris argues the decline in smoking could be sped up if e-cigarettes with nicotine were legalised, predicting as many as 500,000 of Australia’s 2.4 million smokers would switch to “better alternatives”.
The US, UK and EU have all permitted sale of nicotine electronic cigarettes, with New Zealand and Canada to follow.
Cancer Council Australia policy director Paul Grogan said while e-cigarettes were “clearly less harmful”, tobacco companies had “no credibility when it comes to the concept of harm minimisation”.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt supports the ban on e-cigarettes with nicotine.
Meanwhile, Cancer Council research claims tobacco companies have raised cigarette prices beyond excise increases.
The pre-tax take on a pack of Winfield cigarettes alone had soared by nearly 150 per cent since 2010.