Smoking cessation drugs are costing the Australian economy $17 billion a year, and it’s not just the smokers who suffer, new research shows.
A survey of cigarette and tobacco products by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found cigarette and alcohol taxes would be “deadly” for smokers, as it would lead to higher levels of cigarette smoking.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the National Addiction Council said that taxes on tobacco and alcohol would drive up smoking rates.
The ACOSS survey, published in the International Journal of Public Health, found that smoking rates are expected to rise from 13 per cent in 2025 to 21 per cent by 2036.
The tobacco industry and its lobby group, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), argue that taxes would drive down demand and encourage healthier choices.
But Dr David Bailes, from the Australian Tobacco Industry (ATI), said taxes on cigarette and beer would only discourage people from smoking.
“The big problem with tobacco is it is a highly addictive product, and once you stop smoking, you never get off the habit,” Dr Bailies told AAP.
“That means it’s a much more expensive product for people to smoke than alcohol or cigarettes, which are less addictive and therefore less of a deterrent.”
Dr Bails said a higher cigarette tax was a step in the right direction, but there were still problems.
“We need to work on the cost side, particularly for those with high incomes, and for those who are not poor,” he said.
“But we also need to have sensible restrictions on the number of cigarettes and alcohol that people can buy, and make it less tempting to do so.”
“A higher tobacco tax would mean a lot of people would stop smoking and we would see fewer people buying cigarettes and less people buying alcohol.”
Dr Gail Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Government Tobacco Control Agency (AGTCA), said Australia’s taxation system was “overly punitive” and that cigarette and booze taxes would discourage smoking.
Dr Anderson said the current system was too punitive, as “people are penalised for a choice that is clearly not worth the price”.
“There’s an enormous amount of discretion given to the ATO and the ACOSS and it is up to those organisations to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
The new study found the cost of tobacco taxation on Australian consumers would be about $18 billion by 2034.
“If we can reduce the level of taxation on tobacco in the same way we reduce other costs, then we will see lower levels of smoking and more smokers quitting,” Dr Anderson added.
But Professor Richard Wiseman, from Melbourne’s School of Public Policy and Governance, said there was a need for more regulation of alcohol and tobacco.
“A lot of smokers don’t realise the potential health and environmental costs of alcohol,” he told AAP News.
The Australian Cancer Council (ACC) said there were also health and social costs of tobacco. “
What’s more, alcohol is an addictive substance that can cause a lot more harm than tobacco, and alcohol is a big cause of obesity in Australia.”
The Australian Cancer Council (ACC) said there were also health and social costs of tobacco.
It said there are currently about 2.3 million Australians living with tobacco-related health conditions.
Professor Wiseman said there needs to be a greater focus on preventing and controlling tobacco use.
“I think the health costs of smoking outweigh the economic costs, and the economic cost outweighs the health and the social costs,” he explained.
“It’s an economic issue.
You’ve got a big chunk of the population that’s really not doing anything about it.”
Professor Wisemen said there is also a significant social cost.
“This is about the lives of young people,” he noted.
“There are about 12,000 Australians under the age of 40 living with alcohol-related illnesses and the health effects are really significant.”
Dr Wiseman added that Australia has a large and growing population of people who smoke and who have a high prevalence of lung cancer.
“Smoking is linked to an increased risk of lung cancers in the lungs of the older, tobacco-smoking people,” Dr Wisemen explained.
Professor Masako Matsumoto, an expert in public health policy at the University of New South Wales, said the study found tobacco taxation was the most effective way to reduce smoking in Australia.
“When we talk about taxing tobacco, we are talking about excise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products,” Dr Matsumotos said.
Dr Matsamoto said that if Australia is to stop smoking by 2035, the current taxes would need to be reduced.
“So far, the government has not indicated that they are willing to do that, and that’s very disappointing,” she told AAP’s Victoria Morning.
“Why should we be paying for the tobacco industry when they already pay so much for public health?”
The ABC’s Victoria Day podcast also