Could Australia Become a Smoke Free Nation?

Last week, New Zealand announced its goal of being smoke-free by 2025, and now there are calls for Australia to follow suit and start phasing out cigarettes at outlets in the UK. retail across the country.

As part of its Smokefree 2025 plan, New Zealand will prevent Kiwis born from 2011 from buying tobacco.

The new legal smoking age will increase each year, making it illegal for future generations to purchase tobacco products.

Other measures announced by New Zealand include reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to minimal levels and reducing the availability of tobacco at retail outlets

A article recently published by The Medical Journal of Australia calls on the federal government to start supporting Australian retailers in the transition to a smoke-free society.

One of the authors of the article is Associate Professor Coral Gartner at the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland.

“Australia is now moving in the same direction, although a little slower than New Zealand,” said Dr Gartner.

“The National Health Prevention Strategy will soon be released and its goal will be to reduce smoking to less than 5% in Australia by 2030.”

Tobacco accounts for around 40 percent of total sales and generates around 25 percent of Australian convenience store profits.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Fred Hooper)

Dr Gartner said one option was to make cigarettes only available at drugstores.

“There is a lot that we can do to help people who are trying to quit smoking,” she said.

“One of those policies is to reduce the number of places you buy tobacco.

“By taking it out of general retail and putting it in specialty outlets, smokers would have access to other products they could use to help quit smoking.”

Australasian Convenience Stores Association (AACS) CEO Theo Foukkare said if the policy were rolled out in Australia it would be devastating for its members.

“One in 10 customers buys cigarettes from our members’ stores.

“If tobacco were to be phased out, many of our members would have to close their doors.

Instead, Foukkare said tobacco should be replaced by vaping products in stores.

“About 12 months ago, as part of New Zealand’s health strategy, they legalized the accessibility of nicotine vaping as a smoking cessation tool,” he said.

He believed vaping products were less harmful to smokers, although researchers found vaping to be harmful.

Concerns about the “black market”

Right-wing ACT New Zealand last week criticized the new legislation, saying “the ban never worked.”

“We are going to end up with a black market in tobacco, with no standards or regulations, and people will be hurt,” spokeswoman Karen Chhour said.

Sentiment is something Mr Foukkare agreed with that banning cigarettes in Australian stores would boost the black market.

“Consumers are now buying contraband overseas and these packets cost half the price of legal cigarettes.”

A woman holding several cartons of cigarettes
Illegal tobacco seized by Queensland police during an operation with the Australian Taxation Office and Queensland Health in June.(Provided: Queensland Police)

According to a KPMG Report 2019, while legal tobacco consumption has declined, illicit tobacco consumption increased 6.6 percentage points to 20.7% of total consumption in 2019.

Mr Foukkare said that another part of the problem is that consumers are buying vaping products online.

“We allow Australians to spend their money overseas rather than keeping their money in Australia,” he said.

“We have to adopt the right strategies and the right regulations and control who can import these products.

“When you have a model like this you give consumers the choice to access products while keeping the money in Australia and keeping the retailers open and we support giving consumers choice.”

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