If the Australian National Preventive Health Agency has it right, this Christmas-New Year season will see a rise in the number of smokers resolving to ditch the habit.

Citing a strong link between increased tobacco tax and reduced smoking rates, especially amongst the lower socio-economic groups most likely to smoke, the Agency welcomed the Federal Government’s recent decision to stage 12.5 per cent increases in tobacco excise over the next four years.

The rises will commence on 1 December 2013, with further increases in the month of September for the ensuing three years.

 

Smoking kills over 15,000 Australians every year and is one of the leading preventable causes of death and disease in Australia. Over 750,000 hospital bed days per year are attributable to tobacco-related disease and smoking has been estimated to cost over $31 billion a year.

The increases in tobacco excise will raise $5.3 billion over the forward estimates for the Commonwealth Budget.

The ANPHA reports that those most at-risk of smoking related diseases include drug addicts and alcoholics (85 per cent of whom smoke), people living with psychosis and mental illness (66 per cent and 32 per cent respectively), the homeless (77 per cent) and Indigenous Australians (48 per cent).

Licence to smoke?

In a challenging contribution to the smoking debate, Professor Roger Magnusson of the University of Sydney's Law School and Professor David Currow of the Cancer Institute NSW have advocated a licensing system requiring smokers to show ID to verify they are adults.

Drawing on work by The University of Sydney’s public health Professor Simon Chapman, their article in the Medical Journal of Australia was sparked by a survey of secondary students showing that half of 17-year old smokers and one-fifth of 12-year old smokers thought it “easy” or “very easy” to purchase cigarettes themselves.

The 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 2.5 per cent of adolescents aged 12–17 years were daily smokers, with a further 1.3 per cent smoking less frequently.

A ‘smart card’ system would not only address high rates of unlawful tobacco sales to minors but help develop a data base of information about smokers’ purchases that could be used to help adult smokers quit.

The full article is available at the MJA.