Australia is easily one of, if not the most expensive countries in the world in which to be addicted to tobacco, or even in which to be a "social smoker," if such a thing exists. From: Cigarettes are rising in price again — and it’s happening todaySad to say, but some of it is down to bad choices. Cigarettes/alcohol/take aways instead of spending money on essentials.
Despite annual price increases, there was no significant fall in Australian smoking rates from 2013 to 2016, according to the 3-yearly National Drug Strategy Household Surveys. Adult smoking rates increased in New South Wales from 13.5% to 15.1% between 2015 and 2016, and national cigarette consumption rose in 2017 for the first time in a decade according to the National Accounts.
Tobacco excise delivered a massive $12.5 billion to government coffers in the last financial year. However, this tax is particularly cruel at a time of zero wage growth. High prices exploit the most marginalised members of the community, such as low income groups, Indigenous people and people with substance use and mental illness.
The most disadvantaged have more than twice the smoking rates of the more privileged and have more difficulty quitting. For those unable to quit, high taxes are regressive, punitive and increase financial hardship and health inequalities. A pack-a-day smoker on Newstart spends 68% of their annual income on smoking, leaving very little for food, accommodation and other essentials.
The average household in Australia spends more on tobacco than they do on domestic holidays, motor vehicles, takeaway food, telecommunications or electricity.
Another unwanted effect of high prices has been the exponential growth in the illicit tobacco industry. Illicit tobacco from smuggling and illicit tobacco crops makes up 15 per cent to 28 per cent of the total tobacco market and funds organised crime and terrorism.
Australia’s tobacco control policy has always focused on telling smokers to just quit, also known as the ‘quit or die’ approach. However, smoking is a uniquely addictive habit. Seventy per cent of Australian smokers want to quit and most try repeatedly and fail, even with the best treatments. Continuing smokers remain at high risk and up to two out of three will die from a smoking-related disease.
However, there is now a viable alternative: vaping. Nicotine vaporisers (e-cigarettes) provide the nicotine that smokers are addicted to but without the tar and carbon monoxide that cause almost all the harm to health. Importantly they also replicate the smoking ritual and provide some of the pleasure and habit that makes quitting so difficult.
Nothing on this planet is risk free but at a minimum of 95 per cent less harmful, vaporisers are far safer than smoking and have helped millions of smokers quit overseas. Vaping with nicotine is legal in New Zealand, Canada, the UK, US and the EU. In Australia nicotine e-liquid is effectively banned but it can be legally imported or purchased from an Australian compounding pharmacy if the user has a prescription from a medical practitioner.
Thankfully I managed to quit smoking six and a half years ago. However it was only on my third attempt to do so that I managed it, so I do have some sympathy for smokers who remain addicted. I was wondering what the situation re smoking and the poor is in the UK?