Opinion piece on The Punch: Olive brown, colour of sick…
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Olive brown, colour of sick…Kids say olive brown is the colour of sick. And that’s what smoking will make you - in fact it will actually kill you.
The fight to lower the smoking rate and reduce the impact of death and disease on the Australian community has been one of the great public health battles of the past 30 years.
It is a fight the community is winning, but has not yet won. Big Tobacco has deep pockets and the fight has been played out in court rooms and column inches across the country.
A quarter of a century ago, nearly one in three Australians aged over 14 years smoked, now that figure has been roughly halved to one in six – 16.6 per cent, to be exact.
Still, some 3 million Australians continue to smoke, and smoking kills over 15,000 Australians each year.
But 15,000 families who’ve watched a loved one die a horrible death is too many and there are still too many parents seeing their children get hooked on this addictive killer.
The Gillard Government is determined to slash this further.
There is more work that we can and must do to reduce the toll from smoking.
Our government will require tobacco to be sold in plain packaging. It is the latest move in the Government’s comprehensive plan to make smoking less and less attractive.
This is a world-first - the world’s toughest legislation on tobacco promotion.
Plain packaging will remove one of the last remaining forms of cigarette advertising.
Embossed packs will no longer imply quality. Catchy colours designed to suck in young people will be outlawed.
Our legislation has been released as an exposure draft – so the community can comment on the content. The law will restrict tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text appearing on packs and cigarette sticks, require packages to be a standard dark olive brown colour, the colour with the least appeal to smokers, and ensure 75 per cent, up from the current 30 per cent of the front of the pack, will be covered with updated graphic health warnings, adding to the current 90 per cent coverage on the back of the pack.
The only thing to distinguish one brand from another will be the brand and product name in a standard colour, standard position and standard font size and style.
The packs will now depict what is inside them – a dangerous drug where each cigarette smoked takes you a step closer to cancer.
Plain packaging is no stand-alone measure; but it’s a big weapon in a battle against smoking.
Other weapons that we are using are increasing the excise on tobacco products by 25 per cent, effectively increasing the price of a packet of 30 cigarettes by over $2, restricting internet tobacco advertising in Australia, bringing it in line with restrictions on advertising in other media, spending $85 million in anti-smoking social marketing campaigns, including the tough new advertisements linking smoker’s cough with lung cancer, and the first ever national indigenous anti-smoking advertisement, and subsidising nicotine replacement therapies on the PBS, as an aid to quitting smoking.
Of course as they always have, big tobacco is fighting our plain packaging plans tooth and nail.
During last year’s federal election campaign, big tobacco launched a multi million dollar advertising push fronted by the Alliance of Australian Retailers, to oppose the Gillard Government and these measures.
They have made massive donations to the Liberal Party, which continues to happily take their money, almost $3 million since 1999. Mr Abbott won’t declare his support for plain packaging either.
Big tobacco’s latest PR tactic is to put coupons into cigarette packs urging people to protest against plain packaging.
Expect more advertising and more litigation to follow.
But also expect the Government to continue the fight against smoking.
The cost to our community is too high to baulk now. The cost to families from smoking related disease and death is simply too high.
This is a fight worth having; if we win it, thousands of lives and many of our children will be freed from the curse of tobacco addiction.
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