Over the past 50 years, Australia has achieved huge milestones in the fight against tobacco. In 1971, 45% of men and 39% of women smoked in Australia, compared to 14.6% of men and 11.2% of women in 2016. We’re well on our way to a tobacco free future.
The past 45 years have been marked by population-based strategies such as excise increases, ending marketing and promotion, and removing all forms of advertising, including Australia’s world-first plain packaging legislation. This suite of initiatives has had a significant impact on smoking prevalence in Australia.
There’s still work to do
We’ve seen a reduction in smoking across the broader Australian population. However, we need to give added focus to groups who are more vulnerable to disadvantage, marginalisation and discrimination. There is a documented higher prevalence among Indigenous Australians, prison populations, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, people experiencing mental illness, pregnant women, single parents, the homeless and people living in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia.
It is clear that the way forward requires us to re-think our strategies, be creative and innovative. It starts with recognising that complex issues require a comprehensive, sub-population-specific approach, where one size does not fit all.
Want to be part of the change?
If you or your organisation are passionate about ‘Tobacco Free Australia’ and want to be part of the solution, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 08 6365 5436.
There are many diverse ideas with regard to achieving a tobacco free Australia. Any discussion around a tobacco free Australia needs to involve both State or Territory, and Commonwealth strategies.
ACOSH has summarised below the many options for a smoke free WA acquired as a result of consultation with tobacco control experts, and sets out a charter for the way forward.
WA’s 10 point plan to become smoke free
- Set a target date of 2025 for WA to become smoke free: WA to become effectively a smoke free community – defined as fewer than five per cent of adults and fewer than three per cent of school students as regular smokers.
- Reduce the number of tobacco licences by 10 per cent each year: WA has 3900 tobacco sales outlets for an adult population of around 1.7 million. We don’t need one tobacco outlet for every 450 people.
- Strengthen point-of-sale legislation: Despite the best intentions of WA’s Tobacco Control Act, retailers can still publicise cigarette brands. There should be no brand information – simply a small notice that tobacco is available, alongside a government-mandated health warning.
- The WA Government should sue tobacco companies to recover the costs of treating diseases caused by smoking: American States did this in the 1990s and won vast payouts through the Master Settlement agreement. If that is too hard, increase the cost of tobacco licenses from $204 ($510 for wholesalers) to amounts that better reflect the cost of smoking to the health system.
- A continued commitment to adequate expenditure on strong, sustained, hard-hitting media campaigns, with support for quitters.
- Major new programs for disadvantaged groups: Indigenous communities, people with mental health problems, and prisoners. Current programs to address Indigenous smoking need further support.
- Mandate comprehensive, well-supported health and physical education in all schools: This is a measure supported by 96 per cent of WA parents. It is incomprehensible that WA parents cannot be sure that their children will be exposed to proper education on tobacco – or indeed, alcohol, drugs or sex education.
- Ban all tobacco lobbying and public relations activities: Tobacco advertising was banned 21 years ago but international companies are still actively promoting their interests and opposing public health measures. The only purpose of tobacco lobbying and PR is to maximise sales of a lethal product. It should go.
- Minimise exposure to passive smoking: This should include good enforcement of current restrictions; extending non-smoking areas in public places like shopping malls; ending anomalies such as smoking in beer gardens and the casino, which put both staff and patrons at risk; substantial buffer zones around areas where smoking is banned; and protecting non-smokers in common residential areas.
- Strong enforcement of current legislation so that no retailers sell cigarettes to children: The latest WA Health Department survey shows that an amazing 39 per cent of retailers sell cigarettes to children. There is no excuse for this. Any retailer knowingly selling cigarettes to children should lose their license.