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6 Comments

  1. 1
    Jennifer Doggett

    Jennifer Doggett

    I’m happy to bow to Simon’s far greater knowledge than mine of smoking rates among people with mental illnesses. I also accept that increasing the price of cigarettes will cause some people to reduce or quit smoking, including people from disadvantaged groups, and that their health will benefit from this.

    However, we know that under the price increase being proposed by the Coalition the vast majority of current smokers will continue to smoke (one estimate is between 97% and 98.5%). For some of these people, paying more for cigarettes will mean having less money available for other essentials.

    My experience of working with a group with very high smoking rates and very low disposable incomes (people who inject drugs) is that they are likely to forgo spending money on food and housing in order to afford cigarettes. This can result in other health and social problems, which also have a cost and a negative impact on both them and the community.

    My point is that this cost needs to be balanced against the benefits of the very small reductions in smoking rates projected to result from this price increase.

    Reply
  2. 2

    Simon Chapman

    But Jennifer, as I noted, the impact of price also includes reducing how much you smoke across the day .. not just whether you smoke at all. You’re right that the great majority of smokers keep on smoking when the price goes up, but many also “titrate” their smoking by smoking less each day. Such people don’t spend more, but extend the time it takes to smoke the same amount. Do you have a problem with that?

    Australia has not had a real tax rise for tobacco for 11 years (only rises following automatic indexation, intriduced by Keating). There is international consensus, including in the tobacco industry’s internal documents) that the single most effective way of reducing tobacco use is via price. The changes might be “small” but nationally and globally they translate to an unparalleled number of people people quitting.

    Reply
  3. 3

    Becky Freeman

    I think the problem here is not whether or not to increase tobacco tax – that’s a no brainer really, taxing cigarettes will absolutely decrease tobacco use. Improving the health of the poorest members of society will not be achieved by doing nothing. But, tax increases accompanied by other measures that also improve the odds of successful quitting will further extend the health benefits of quitting smoking to more people – including the most socially disadvantaged. Tax increases accompanied by a ban on the display of tobacco products at retail, putting all tobacco products in plain boxes that only show health effects and quitting information, banning smoking in all enclosed workplaces, and training health providers to assist smokers to quit.

    It is time to get serious about reducing smoking among the socially disadvantaged – this will not be achieved by one off, half-baked measures. Instead of advocating for no action, the public health community must always be pushing for more.

    Reply
  4. 4

    Stafford Sanders

    I’d agree with Becky, tax needs to be part of a broad strategy. And it needs to be based on best evidence, not old mythologies. A recent Quit survey of smokers showed 75% said they’d quit if the price went up by 50%. Sure, not all those would actually quit, but smokers are mostly very susceptible to just a bit of extra motivation – 85% of smokers say they want to quit, so only a small minority of them are the “hardened cases” often spoken about. And I’d say we need to get rid of smoking not just from enclosed workplaces but from all workplaces, enclosed or not – since employees are still at risk from secondhand smoke even in unenclosed workplaces because of their repeated exposure.

    Reply
  5. 5

    annej

    I thought the regressive tax argument had been given up as a reason for opposing tobacco tax increases but apparently not yet. The simple solution is to put the tax up after a decade of opposition – and use the billions in government revenue to fully fund a national preventative health strategy based on the evidence. That will include helping disadvantaged smokers to quit.

    Reply
  6. 6

    possoms

    “What a perverse way of ‘helping’ the poor while feeling good about social justice.’”

    What’s a perversion is robbing the poor of some of what little money they have in order for do-gooders like Chapman to feel like a fine, upstanding gentleman for sticking his snout into other people’s lives so as to order those lives according to some fine, idealized blueprint he has knocking around in that crypto-fascist brain of his. I thought we had an end to that with the anti-tobacco policies of the Hitler gang. Sadder still, if possible, is that the other posters seem to tag along, taking it for granted that the poor need guidance from their superiors (namely themselves) and have to be treated like children — for their own good — objects unworthy of making their own decisions in matters that pertain to their own personal and intimate lives.

    That’s the true perversion here.

    Reply

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