New research shows almost 9 out of 10 Australians would back an increased tobacco tax if the extra funds were used to prevent diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
A higher tobacco tax was still overwhelmingly supported even without an indication on where extra funds would be spent, with almost three-quarters of the 1202 survey respondents (73%) in favour of an increase.
The Heart Foundation, Cancer Council, Public Health Association of Australia and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) commissioned the Newspoll research, published today.
Executive Director of Quit, Ms Fiona Sharkie, said increasing the price of cigarettes is by far the most important factor driving reductions in smoking across the whole population.
"Despite Australia showing tremendous leadership in certain areas of tobacco control, tax is one area where we have dropped the ball and lag behind 30 comparable economies. Aside from CPI increases and the introduction of the GST in 2000, tobacco tax has not increased in Australia in almost ten years."
"With rising costs in food, petrol and housing, tobacco is now relatively inexpensive. It is cheaper to buy a packet of cigarettes than it is to go to a movie or buy a mobile phone card."
In Ireland, considered world's best when it comes to tobacco tax, cigarettes retail for the equivalent of A$19.30.
"A tax increase of $2 per pack in Australia would raise more than $700 million, which if reinvested into education and support for smokers to quit, could effectively reduce the devastating effects of smoking both on the individual and the whole community."
"With tobacco claiming 15 000 Australians lives and costing the community $31.5 billion dollars every year, it is essential proven tobacco control strategies like a tax increase are implemented as soon as possible."
Ms Sharkie said by increasing tobacco tax, the Australian Government would be adopting a proven measure to 'close the gap' in health inequalities.
"Price increases on cigarettes not only reduce the number of people smoking but also the amount smoked by remaining smokers, with greater drops observed among those on lower incomes and young people."
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