Smokers could soon be confronted with new health warnings and fresh graphic images in a fresh bid to get them to quit.
Health Minister Mark Butler outlined the federal government’s plan to overhaul packaging as part of a suite of measures to slash smoking rates to below 10 per cent by 2025.
But he stopped short of endorsing Australia following in the footsteps of New Zealand and outlawing smoking for the next generation.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra on No Tobacco Day on Wednesday, Mr Butler said the government was “renewing the fight” against tobacco.
“Australia has been a leader in public health measures to discourage smoking but after a decade of inaction, the gains of Labor‘s world-leading plain packaging laws have been squandered,” Mr Butler said.
Part of that fight could mean cigarettes sold having a health warning printed on each individual stick.
Mr Butler said he was concerned Australians had become desensitised to the health warnings and images that had adorned cigarette packs since 2011.
The new rules would also standardise the shape and size of tobacco products, limiting the use of appealing names like “smooth” to imply they reduce harm, and improve the transparency of the product’s contents.
Specified flavours and additives will be stamped out, while vapes will also be captured in tobacco restrictions.
About 12 per cent of Australians, or around two million people, remain daily smokers.
Mr Butler said while there had been essentially a “flatline” in smoking rates, a lack of “serious action” had arrested any further decreases.
He emphasised the rise in vaping could threaten the work to bring smoking rates down.
Mr Butler previously announced the tobacco tax would be raised by 5 per cent a year across the next three years from September.
When asked if he would rule out adopting the New Zealand model of an aged-based phase out of cigarettes, the Health Minister said “it’s not on the table right now”.
“Individual countries might sort of seek to push the envelope a little bit further in one respect.
“I‘m not particularly against that element of the New Zealand package … This was not a proposal put to me that we should consider.
“It‘s not on the table in Australia at this point in time.”
The federal government will introduce laws later this year following consultation, with the current regulations to expire in April 2024.
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