A bit slow to butt out

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - JOHN ROLFE

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.

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