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Issue #1607      August 21, 2013

Government urged to adopt tobacco tax increase

Health leaders have urged the Australian government to help prevent tobacco deaths and diseases by increasing the excise duty on all tobacco products.

The government last raised the tobacco excise by 25 percent in April 2010, adding about $2 to the cost of a pack of 30 cigarettes.

The Heart Foundation and Action on Smoking and Health Australia have welcomed Prime Minister Rudd’s commitment to “get serious” about reducing tobacco’s costs to the Australian community.

“Increasing the tax on tobacco to world best-practice level would be a ‘win-win’ for Australia: it would raise revenue while driving down smoking rates and the uptake of smoking by children,” said Anne Jones, CEO of ASH Australia.

“When the government last raised the tax by 25 percent in 2010, it was a catch-up increase – there had been no real increase for a decade. This rise delivered huge health benefits – it resulted in an 11 percent fall in tobacco consumption”, said Maurice Swanson, tobacco spokesperson for the Heart Foundation.

“We still have over 100,000 children who are weekly smokers, and we now need a second increase to bring tobacco excise into line with world best practice.

“It’s a myth that poor smokers will be disadvantaged by a tobacco tax rise. They’re the ones who are suffering most from tobacco, dying at higher rates and spending more on tobacco and related health costs. And people on lower incomes are more price-sensitive and will quit in greater numbers because of a tax increase.”

Anne Jones also called upon the government to protect its health policies and great record on tobacco control by doing more to prevent tobacco industry interference in health policies.

“The government can do this by banning political donations from tobacco companies and adopting a whole-of-government policy that excludes investment in tobacco companies by any government agency”, she said.   

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