Cigarette crackdown 'toughest in the world'
*Smoke crackdown includes price hike
*Laws will also strip packets of marketing
*Tobacco industry vows to fight plan
THE tax on cigarettes has risen by 25 per cent as part of the Federal Government's crackdown on smoking.
The Government will also force tobacco companies to use plain packaging from July 1, 2012.
The changes will cut tobacco consumption by six per cent and the number of smokers by two or three per cent - about 87,000 Australians, the Government said.
The 25 per cent tax increase means an increase of about $2.16 for a pack of 30, raising the cost to about $17.95.
Raising the tobacco excise will generate an extra $5 billion over four years and the money "will be directly invested in hospitals".
Internet advertising of cigarettes will also be restricted, and an extra $27.8 million will be spent on anti-smoking campaigns.
New legislation will prohibit logos, brand imagery, colours, and promotional text other than brand and product names in standard colour, position, font style and size, the Government said.
"The new branding for cigarettes will be the most hardline regime in the world and cigarette companies will hate it," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said today.
The Australian Greens, Family First senator Steve Fielding and Independent senator Nick Xenophon have all voiced support for the tax increase giving the Government the numbers it needs to have the legislation passed by the Senate.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the hike is a cash grab designed to balance the books after Mr Rudd's big spending.
"I'm not in the business of defending smoking, I want to make that absolutely clear, but I also want to make absolutely clear that this is not a health policy, this is a tax grab," Mr Abbott said.
"In fact it is a panic tax put in place by a Government who's spending is out of control.
"The Rudd Government is addicted to spending in the way that some people, sadly, are addicted to nicotine."
In response to changed packaging laws, Mr Abbott said he wanted to see evidence of its effectiveness in reducing smoking habits.
Although it appears Labor will not have to rely on the Coalition, Senator Xenophon urged them to get support for the initiatives.
"An increase in the tax is inevitable and it's a good thing," he told ABC TV.
Tobacco companies to fight
A spokeswoman for Imperial Tobacco Australia said the company was preparing to "legally" fight the Government over the proposed changes.
"Introducing plain packaging just takes away the ability of a consumer to identify our brand from another brand - and that's of value to us," she told ABC Radio.
"It really affects the value of our business as a commercial enterprise and we will fight to support protecting our international property rights."
The spokeswoman said the move - designed to make cigarettes less appealing to young people - may actually be a bane to public health.
"If the tobacco products are available in the same easy-to-copy plain packaging, it makes it much easier for counterfeiters to increase the volume of illicit trade in Australia," she said.
"That illicit product may not have the health warnings on it, it won't be subject to ingredients reporting."
Health Minister Nicola Roxon said legislation allowing the packaging changes would be carefully drafted to withstand any legal challenges from the industry.
"We have firm advice that this action can be taken," she said.
Cancer Council Australia chief executive Ian Olver said the move would stop some people smoking and cut cancer rates. It would make Australia a world leader in reducing tobacco deaths, he said.
"Tobacco companies cleverly tailor product packaging to attract people to the pack and send a message to smokers about the personality of the consumer," Prof Olver said.
He said health warnings would be more prominent without other patterns on the packaging.
Quit praised the "gutsy" plan and said it would hamper the recruitment of new smokers.
With advertisment of cigarettes already banned, packaging was serving as the main way to lure people into the habit, according to Quit's executive director Fiona Sharkie.
"By adopting plain packaging we can stop the tobacco industry from using the pack to recruit new smokers and promote their deadly and addictive products," she said.
National Preventative Health Taskforce adviser Simon Chapman recommended the Government adopt the policy, which he said was the most significant attempt to try and stop smoking since tobacco advertising was banned.
"I would expect many other governments to follow very quickly," he said.
"We believe that it is totally inappropriate to allow cancer-causing products to be dressed up in beguiling, attractive boxes."
April 30, 2010 12:03AM
- With AAP
By staff writers
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