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Tobacco Plain Packaging
The Australian Government’s legislation for plain packaging.
The most recent Australian Health Survey reports that while the number of smokers in Australia continues to decline, about 2.8 million, or 16.3 per cent of Australians aged 18 years and over still smoke daily. The chilling facts are that smoking kills an estimated 15,000 Australians every year1 and costs Australian society an estimated $31.5 billion each year2. Helping people to give up smoking, and minimising the chance of them starting, are major priorities for the Australian Government.
The Government’s plain packaging legislation is a world first and sends a clear message that the glamour is gone – cigarette packs now only show the death and disease that can come from smoking. The new packs have been designed to have the lowest appeal to smokers and to make clear the terrible effects that smoking can have on health.
Research shows that plain packaging will:
- increase the noticeability, recall and impact of health warning messages;
- reduce the ability of packaging to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking; and
- reduce the attractiveness of the tobacco product, for both adults and children.
The plain packaging measure is part of a range of reforms the Government is implementing to reduce smoking and its harmful effects. These reforms include an increase in the tobacco excise of 25 per cent, legislation to restrict internet advertising of tobacco products in Australia, and more than $135 million in investment in anti-smoking social marketing campaigns, including $27.8 million for the National Tobacco Campaign - More Targeted Approach. This campaign targets smoking prevalence among high risk and hard to reach groups, including pregnant women and their partners, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, people with a mental illness and prisoners.
In addition to these measures, since February 2011, the Government has been providing additional support for smokers to quit through extended subsidies for nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and other smoking cessation support medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Further extensions to these subsidies, to provide for a broader range of NRT, commenced on 1 January 2012.
The Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 took effect from 1 October 2012, requiring all tobacco products manufactured or packaged in Australia for domestic consumption to be in plain packaging, and from 1 December 2012, all tobacco products sold in Australia to be in plain packaging. Plain packaging applies not only to cigarettes, but to all tobacco products including cigars, loose-leaf tobacco and bidis.
Compliance and enforcement activities for the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 commenced on 1 October 2012 for manufacturing and packaging offences, and on 1 December 2012 for supply offences. Enforcement action undertaken under the legislation is proportionate to the breach and involves a range of actions including, as appropriate, verbal or written warnings, infringement notices and prosecutions. The Tobacco Plain Packaging Enforcement Policy explains the approach to enforcement and can be found on the yourHealth website.
Begg, S., Vox, T., Barker, B., Stevenson, C., Stanley, L., and Lopez, AD., (2007) The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. PHE 82 Canberra: AIHW
Collins and Lapsley (2008) The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004/05. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health and Ageing