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Australian Government’s Unprecedented Tobacco Control Policies Commended

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(New York, NY) – World Lung Foundation congratulates the Australian government on its announcement of a comprehensive package to combat smoking—including a 25% increase in the excise tax on tobacco products and the removal of promotional text, images and colors on all cigarette packs.

A 25% increase in the excise tax on tobacco products in Australia will increase the price of a pack by US$1.85 and will push the total price to around US$18.50 a pack within three years. In most countries of the Western Pacific region, a pack of cigarettes costs less than US$5: The cost of a pack of a popular brand in China is about US$2; in countries such as the Philippines and Viet Nam, a pack of a popular brand sells for less than US$1.

Australia will also be the first country in the world to mandate that all colors, branding and promotional text be removed from cigarette packs, by 2012. All tobacco products will carry graphic health warnings and have a standard style and color.

WLF strongly supports Australia's efforts to reduce tobacco consumption to less than 10%—the tax increase alone is predicted to reduce prevalence by 6%. “Increasing the price of tobacco products is the single most effective measure to reduce smoking, and the requirement of plain packaging strips the tobacco industry of one of its most powerful marketing tools,” said Peter Baldini, CEO, World Lung Foundation.

Australia also continues to support its tobacco control program with hard-hitting advertising campaigns, which graphically depict the harms of smoking and which have been adapted for use in countries around the world. “With higher cigarette prices, packages that prominently depict health harms, and powerful mass media campaigns, smokers will be encouraged to quit and non-smokers will be discouraged from beginning to smoke,” Baldini said.

“It is estimated that two people die every minute from a tobacco-related disease in the Western Pacific region,” said Dr. Judith Mackay, Senior Advisor, World Lung Foundation. “Only half of all countries in the region have successfully banned tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and in many countries anti-tobacco laws are poorly enforced. Australia is once again setting new and higher standards for the global tobacco control movement, by demonstrating the power of political will to prevent countless deaths from tobacco use.”