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Tobacco tax rise will help smokers butt out for good

The Rudd government’s forthcoming tobacco tax increase is the single most effective way to cut smoking and reduce the thousands of premature deaths that smoking causes each year. It’s a gold star public…

For every 10% increase in price, consumption of tobacco reduces by about 4%. Image from shutterstock.com

The Rudd government’s forthcoming tobacco tax increase is the single most effective way to cut smoking and reduce the thousands of premature deaths that smoking causes each year. It’s a gold star public health policy that is employed universally in nations that have successfully reduced smoking rates.

The body of evidence that price increases reduce smoking quickly and effectively is bulletproof. In short, tax increases induce smokers to quit, reduce the initiation and uptake of tobacco use among young people, and lower the consumption of tobacco products among continuing users.

For every 10% increase in price, consumption of tobacco reduces by about 4%. Half of this decrease is due to adults quitting smoking and young people not taking up smoking. The other half is due to people who continue to smoke, smoking fewer cigarettes.

The planned series of four 12.5% tax increases should lead to about 210,000 fewer Australian adults and 40,000 fewer teenagers smoking. That means around 2.5 billion fewer cigarettes will be smoked each year.

By the end of 2014, a typical pack of 25 cigarettes will likely cost upwards of A$20.

Myths and facts

As with any tobacco control reform, the tobacco industry and its allies will immediately respond with a series of predictable myths to instill doubt about the policy intent and effectiveness.

Myth: Australian tobacco taxes are already too high

Just last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report recognising Australia as a world leader in tobacco control, rated among the top 20 nations for its work in mass media education, smoke-free policies, health warnings and support for smokers.

But Australia is lagging behind international best practice on tax policy, with total tobacco taxes making up less than 60% of the final price. The WHO benchmark is set at tax comprising a minimum of 70% of the total price. The announced tax increases mean that Australia will be catching up to New Zealand.

Tax increases reduce the likelihood of young people taking up smoking and continuing to smoke. Image from shutterstock.com

Myth: This is just a government grab for revenue

Over the past 13 years, there have been just two real increases in tobacco excise duty. In comparison, during the 1990s, there were ten large real increases in price; these tax increases were the most important factor driving reductions in smoking over the 1990s. Governments failing to raise tobacco taxes means that smoking rates fall at a much slower rate.

Myth: Tobacco tax increases hurt the poor

Tobacco tax increases are one of the few policy measures that reduce smoking more in low- than high-income groups. Smokers who are unable to quit following an increase in taxes can also avoid paying the extra cost by smoking fewer cigarettes per day.

In Australia, there are now far more ex-smokers than current smokers, proving that quitting is an achievable and common accomplishment. The vast majority of smokers want to quit, and tobacco taxes are an additional incentive that help smokers quit their addiction for good.

Besides spreading these myths, tobacco industry apologists are already crying “nanny state” at the announced tax increases; suggesting that voters are somehow tired of governments taking effective action to improve the nation’s health.

In reality, the public is highly supportive of tobacco tax increases, particularly if they know the measures are coupled with increased health education and quit-smoking support.

What works in tobacco control?

Tobacco taxes combined with high profile, hard-hitting mass media education campaigns, like the one below, have been shown to be critical in reducing smoking rates.

Everybody knows smoking kills

Additionally, tobacco advertising bans, smoke-free public spaces, graphic health warnings on packages, and quit-smoking support programs are all part of a comprehensive package of initiatives that countries should adopt to reduce the harms caused by tobacco use.

There are also strategies that we know have no impact on smoking rates, or worse – actually increase smoking-related harms. Allowing the tobacco industry to run youth smoking prevention education campaigns has been found to leave young people with a lower perception of harm from smoking, stronger approval of smoking and intentions to smoke in the future and a greater likelihood of having smoked in the past 30 days.

Equally, tobacco industry developed voluntary self-regulatory codes have proven to serve only to delay the adoption of effective government legislation.

What’s next for tobacco control?

Australia is clearly a world leader in tobacco control. Being the first country in the world to implement plain packaging is testament to the government’s commitment to ending the 15,000 deaths per year due to tobacco use. But in order to continue to pave the way in global tobacco control, Australia will need to continue to be innovative.

Allowing the tobacco industry to run youth smoking prevention education campaigns leaves young people with a lowered perception of tobacco-related harm. Image from Shutterstock.com

Changing the tobacco retail environment is a largely untapped source for further reforms. Cigarettes are sold on virtually every street corner in Australia with limited restrictions on where and when it can be sold, who can sell it, how much they can sell, and who they can sell it to. While some Australian states require retailers to have a license, they are easy and inexpensive to acquire and never revoked.

Emerging evidence suggests that reducing the density of tobacco retail outlets may be an important tobacco control policy.

And while it can be easily dismissed as “radical”, perhaps in the not-so-distant future, smokers themselves will need to obtain a license in order to purchase tobacco.

Acknowledgments: A huge thank you to Michelle Scollo for her invaluable assistance in preparing this article.

Join the conversation

81 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    Of course when anti-tax advocates suggest tobacco taxes 'hurt the poor', they mean the poor will pay a larger proportion of their income than the rich if they continue to smoke.

    The article doesn't actually dispute this - 'tobacco tax increases are one of the few policy measures that reduce smoking more in low- than high-income groups'. Instead, the article is redefining 'hurt' as 'damage people's health', which is quite a clever twist on the anti-tax position.

    It still doesn't address the issue of whether it is right to coerce the poor to change their behaviour, while letting wealthy people do whatever they like.

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  2. Philip Laird

    Academic at University of Wollongong

    The logic behind this article is hard to refute; that price accompanied by effective public health programmes, can reduce consumption of what
    for many, if not most, people, is a harmful substance. Governments
    have a responsibility in this area; and with the High Court decision of several years ago, it makes it easier for the Australian government to increase excise/taxes on tobacco products. Maybe the Australian government can move to more effective regulation of retail outlets of such products.
    Another challenge for the Australian government is to address excise levels on beer, wine, spirits etc. Some five decades ago, the excise levels in place led to prices high enough to moderate consumption, at least of spirits. With inflation over the years, and failure to increase excise levels, Australia now has a public health problem with excessive alcohol consumption.

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  3. Don Aitkin

    writer, speaker and teacher

    I can't find the answer in what I've seen so far, but if the tax was spectacularly successful, and everyone stopped smoking, then it would suddenly return no money to the Treasury. I wonder what success rate the designers built in. To me it looks like a revenue-raiser of the traditional kind, nestled in a public-health bed of cotton wool, but the impression I get is that its designers don't think it will have much effect at all.

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    1. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      I'm looking forward to a reduction in the street cleaning bill when there are less butts on the ground. Why do smokers seem to believe that their habit gives them a "licence to litter"?

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    2. Jeremy Culberg

      Electrical Asset Manager at Power Generation

      In reply to Don Aitkin

      Treasury estimates that at 50 cents per cigarette, the revenue will start to turn downwards (enough people will cut back or stop entirely). On average, Australia is 35 cents per cigarette. There's some room to go yet.

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  4. Paul Bart

    IT professional

    I am a non smoker and support all the measures that the government put in place to protect non smokers from being inconvenienced / put at risk by cigarette smoke.

    However this relentless campaign to marginalize smokers and to control the behavior of the poor and please note the word poor, is truly Orwellian and utterly repugnant to me.

    I have watched my mother who smoked since she was about 17 struggle to find enough money on her pension to support a habit of by then about 65 years. Does…

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Paul Bart

      Paul - it seems to me that this strategy might be exactly what could have helped your mother avoid becoming hopelessly addicted back when she started smoking.

      If less adolescents start, less people will become addicted.

      Smoking habits don't just produce shorter lifespans, but much higher risk for a whole host of health problems from poor leg circulation to heart attack to many different types of cancer.

      I've looked after many older people with severe emphysema from many years of smoking - they might need continuous oxygen and can't walk enough to lead the house, but are so strongly addicted that they still need to smoke.

      Being unable to breathe is a terrible way to spend the last stage of your life. It's not just about saving health care costs - stopping smoking has to be one of the best preventive health measures that there is - for the benefit of smokers themselves.

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    2. Paul Bart

      IT professional

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue I do not disagree on anything you have said regarding the effect of tobacco on health. However, there was no public education when my parents started smoking and a sad fact is that many old Australians are smokers and they may be unable to stop or simply do not want to. So I object to the draconian measures put forward. I am all for education, but in the end I would like to leave the decision to smoke or not to each individual.
      I am sure that dying from those causes is not pleasant to endure or to watch for that matter. However we all have to die of something, and dying of / with dementia is hardly a prospect to relish.

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Paul Bart

      I agree, Paul. That's exactly my point. People like your mother became addicted because, when they were teenagers, they were not discouraged from smoking. Young men who went to war bore the burden of seeing their young mates die, and were given a smoking habit to boot.

      It's exactly because of these unfortunate people that I support efforts to discourage young people from taking up smoking.

      I also believe our society should look after people like your mother - but by keeping their smokes affordable but by giving them whatever support they need to quit.

      Yes, we all have to die of something, but smoking worsens the risk of dementia.

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Second last para typo - meant to be "NOT by keeping their smokes affordable'' - not ''but'')

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    5. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Paul Bart

      "Does anyone think that those people are likely to easily quit a habit of a life time? Should they be forced to?" Should their habit of a lifetime require me to subsidise her ultimate health costs? Should they be forced to bear the responsibilities implicit in their right to smoke?

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    6. Paul Bart

      IT professional

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      So you think quitting at 70tiesor 80ties will improve their health outcomes? With older people the damage has been done. As smokers tend not to live as long as non smokers their drain on public health system is actually lower. Particularly if you consider the disproportionate tax contribution on consumption of a legal product.
      If indeed you are a poet and earn as much as an average poet does, I do not think you will subsides anyone.

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    7. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Paul Bart

      Not so, Paul Bart - stopping smoking at any age is better than continuing. It is true that the structural lung changes of emphysema are largely irreversible, but that doesn't mean that continuing to smoke does not further harm. The continued inhalation of toxic products continues to cause harm and disability to the lungs as well as a range of other organs.

      A Japanese study looked at the effects of smoking cessation on a large population of women aged between 40 and 79 years. (Honjo et al 2009…

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    8. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hey Sue - what if they don't want to quit? Just a question? Should they go out and rob liquor stores? Should they rob your house? Yep - let's start another drug war. Simply (emphasis on dumb) brilliant!!!

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    9. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Grant Mahy

      The War on Drugs was targeting producers of illicit products, largely in Latin America (surprise surprise - this is the USA, after all), and dragging innocents into the crossfire in the process. The producers of tobacco are not being hunted down by the US military. You can't compare the two.

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    10. Paul Bart

      IT professional

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      A reply to Sue L

      "The continued inhalation of toxic products continues to cause harm and disability to the lungs as well as a range of other organs."

      I am sure it does, question is does it matter at that time. Is the psychological trauma at lets say post 70 years of age worth the potential health benefit? These questions are never put by the the people who propose these catch all measures.

      Had a quick look for the study you mention, unfortunately I can only find the abstract, so it is difficult…

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    11. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Grant Mahy

      If they don't want to quit? They keep smoking.

      If the cost becomes unaffordable, they could ask their children to pitch in, I guess. Wouldn't you? (Just a question).

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    12. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Paul Bart

      Paul Bart - your hunch doesn't match the data.

      Ultimately, though, this strategy is aimed at much younger people, so that they never have to develop a chronic illness from smoking. I feel confident your mother will continue to be able to smoke, if she chooses. If if becomes difficult for her to afford, you may want to subsidise it for her, in the knowledge that the overall public health strategy is well-targeted, and less people might have to bear the addiction in future. Or not. Up to you.

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    13. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Paul you can buy cheap chop chop - I'm thinking of going bush myself, cutting down some trees and planting fields of tobacco. When the cops start flying and ripping off our crops I think I'll go hydro:-)

      And Sue - seriously though good point. Strict regulations and high costs will put a lot off - unfortunately I suspect a lot of others no.

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  5. Mike Jubow

    forestry nurseryman

    If we take it as axiomatic that plain packaging, public education and most of all, that taxes over 70% will reduce smoking and reduce smoking related deaths, where does the proposition of legalising of marijuana stand in regard to public health.

    If I recall right, some years ago, I read in New Scientist that, aside from the high risks of psychosis, the risks of developing emphysema, asthma and lung cancer were slightly higher than for tobacco in regular users. The study was done in the US. I don't know how accurate this study was nor if there has been any more work done in this area.

    However, could the success of of tobacco taxes etc, in reducing public health risks be used to agitate for legalisation of happy weed in order that it can be taxed to hell as a public health measure?

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    1. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      I think that keeping it on the fringe is a good idea. If people want to grow and deal, make sure that it is on a small scale, restricted in scale and "out of the way". Making ANYTHING legal gives it a more respectable status. I have nothing against people using marijuana - not in the slightest - but I do believe that no endorsement, implicit or otherwise, of its use should be given by government. If weed users feel marginalised by this, too bad.

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    2. Ben Neill

      Mobile/Web Applications Developer

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      I would be interested in how many of those smokers were tobacco smokers as well.

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    3. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to John Perry

      I don't think weed smokers give a damn about being marginalised - more being imprisoned and criminalised. That's where the looneys from the anti tobacco lobby are trying to take this. Funny really as Uruguay just became the first country to legalise and we expect many more will follow over the coming years. Prohibition is a morons paradise.

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    4. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Grant Mahy

      Lift the criminalisation by all means, but keep the production and distribution limited. The corporatisation of the marijuana industry is the last thing anyone needs - look at the disgusting machinations of Big Tobacco. Combine a hypothetical Big Marijuana with their existing lobbyists in Nimbin and you'll have a generation of kids taking it up en masse - I lived near Nimbin for many years and couldn't believe the nonsense they were spouting about the benefits of smoking weed. They don't want to acknowledge that it can actually be bad for you if it gets beyond even occasional use.

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  6. David Stonier-Gibson

    Electronic Engineer/Small business owner at SPLat Controls - electronic control systems

    Smoking is a real addiction and can be nearly impossible to break. I quit a 40-50 a day habit in the early 80's. It was hard. I took a commercial course which cost a lot of money, which I could only just "kinda" afford with one income, 4 young children (my reason for wanting to quit), and a whopping big mortgage.

    From my high moral ground I now have no sympathy for smokers in general. *But* having said that, very expensive smokes are going to make it extremely difficult for financially disadvantaged…

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  7. John Mendoza

    Adjunct Associate Professor at University of Sydney

    Becky

    It seems that the public health lobby, of which I count myself as a life long member are ignoring the growing body of global evidence on the association between mental illness and tobacco consumption. In nations like Australia or states like California, which have lead efforts to reduce tobacco consumption, the largest group of those continuing to smoke are those with mental illnesses - many severe and persistent.

    In Australia close to half of all those who smoke have a mental illness…

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    1. Becky Freeman

      Research Fellow/Lecturer at University of Sydney

      In reply to John Mendoza

      Hi John,

      Absolutely no argument form me that mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention are woefully neglected and underfunded. Thanks for raising this issue.

      Cheers,
      Becky

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  8. rory robertson

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Sugar is the new tobacco.

    Readers, modern rates of sugar consumption - especially via sugary drinks - are the single-biggest driver of global obesity and type 2 diabetes, together the greatest public-health challenge of our times: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.full.pdf

    In an effort to counter these disturbing trends towards obesity and diabetes - especially amongst young people and Indigenous peoples - I am calling for a ban on all sugary drinks in all schools in all…

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    1. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to rory robertson

      Sugar also weakens the immune system, leading to increased prevalence of illness.

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    2. Louise O'Brien

      Marketer.Communicator. Observer

      In reply to rory robertson

      Sugar is also addictive. If people take sugar out of their diet for a couple of days they stop craving it.

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Perry

      John - you say ''Sugar also weakens the immune system, leading to increased prevalence of illness.''

      Care to back up that statement? What types of sugar? Excess sugar or any sugar? By what physiological mechanism would this work?

      Mr Robertson is indeed enterprising in trying to hijack a thread about tobacco smoking with his sugar obsession. There is an enormous difference, however.

      Glucose is essential to life, and only significant excess, in the setting of nutrient and energy imbalance, is harmful. Inhaling tobacco smoke is injurious to health in all quantities. There is no comparison.

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    4. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue,

      Thanks for reminding us that you know everything about everything. Perhaps you should do more reading and less writing. You massively under-rate sugar as a problem in society, Dr Sue. And now that pretty well everyone knows that tobacco is a problem, it's worth telling parents and their children that modern sugar consumption is the single-biggest driver of global obesity and diabetes: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.full.pdf

      Moreover, Dr Sue, you say "There is…

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    5. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to rory robertson

      Also Dr Sue,

      Here's Dr Eric Clapton explaining that sugar is addictive. No comparison with tobacco? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVPmfMDFS9A

      And here's a trainer for a new film on sugar as a menace to public health, much like tobacco: http://vimeo.com/71478142

      Dr Sue, there's a snippet of me saying a sentence, but I doubt it will survive the trip to the final version of the film. In my defence, I have a good head for radio.

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    6. Ian Alexander

      Reader

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue, you're very brave. The anti-sugar(s) advocates are very zealous and like many extremists, they take their cues from popular books and newpapers rather than peer-reviewed science.

      Like many foods, taken in moderation, sugar is fine. The same can't be said for tobacco products...which is my segue back to the topic at hand.

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    7. Ian Alexander

      Reader

      In reply to rory robertson

      Gary Taubes

      Well qualified...hmmm...
      Journalist and Aerospace Engineer.

      No scientific training or formal education relating to food science, human nutrition, medical science, chemistry, biochemistry or anything that would possibily qualify him as an expert.

      But then again, he does write sensationalist books that gullible people buy.

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    8. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Ian Alexander

      Nice segue, Ian. Too bad about the misinformation you promoted along the way. Is this peer-reviewed science: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.full.pdf

      Readers, I'm simply saying that now that pretty well everyone knows that smoking is health-hazard, it's worth telling parents and their children that modern sugar consumption is the single-biggest driver of global obesity and diabetes (link above).

      Accordingly, I'm campaigning for bans on all sugary drinks in all schools everywhere; and also in other places where children are "captive" for extended periods, including hospitals and airliners: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Sugary-Drinks-Ban.

      If after assessing the facts you think this proposal has merit, please forward it to parents, students, teachers, principals and heads of schools, nurses, doctors, dentists and others involved in public health and education.

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    9. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Ian Alexander

      Ian,

      By the way, Gary Taubes has a science degree, was the science reporter on The New York Times for several years, and then spent five years reading and writing about pretty well every significant nutrition article and book published over the past several centuries. That's not nothing. In the past decade or two, he has cross-checked his understanding of those published results by personally interviewing hundreds - if not thousands - of scientists on their particular findings.

      Or here's Wikipedia…

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    10. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      Mr Robertson,

      Where have I claimed to know everything about everything? Do you see my posts in the threads about economics or business? The non-health sciences?

      We do you feel threatened when I comment in my area of training and expertise? Would there not be something wrong if I didn't know more about the health sciences than someone who has never been trained or worked in my area?

      Gary Taubes is not a ''researcher'' in the sense that he has conducted any actual research - he just reads stuff - and without the underlying expertise to understand the physiological or pathological mechanisms. I don't understand these things because I am some sort of special snowflake, but because I have studied them, passed exams on them, and practised on the basis of them, with accountability for my decisions. Has Gary Taube done any of that?

      If not, why should anyone worry about what Gary Taubes is scared of?

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    11. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      Mr Robertson - your obsession is taking too many column inches (cms) in this discussion.

      Nobody has said that what Gary Taubes has done is ''nothing'' - but many people regard it as not equivalent to having training or practice in the CLINICAL sciences (ie how the body works - from micro to macro).

      You don't appear to value this sort of expertise. Do you feel the same about your own area of training, if you have one, or can anyone just read stuff and know all about it?

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    12. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Oh - and as for your allegation ''Perhaps you should do more reading and less writing.''

      FYI, I recently went to a course that critically reviewed the medical literature in my specialty area. We went through several hundred published research papers in 30 topics over four days.

      Is that enough reading for you?

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    13. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      From WebMD - 10 Immune System Boosters

      "3. Eating foods high in sugar and fat: Consuming too much sugar suppresses immune system cells responsible for attacking bacteria. Even consuming just 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution (about the same as in two 12-ounce sodas) reduces the ability of white blood cells to overpower and destroy bacteria. This effect is seen for at least a few hours after consuming a sugary drink."

      I know that the research is in question but surely it can't be written off.

      And quite obviously I was referring to excess sugar ... and "excess" can be a lot less than people think.

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    14. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue,

      Your latest suggestion that Taubes knows little on the key links between modern diets and chronic diseases - despite the background I described earlier - does you no credit. Not to be unkind, but your suggestion that you know more than Taubes about the relevant evidence is laughable.

      So too, your regular story that only "trained health professionals" have anything useful to say about improving public health would be more convincing if the world hadn't trended towards obesity and type…

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    15. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue,

      My obsession with improving public health is no less valid than yours. Nor is it obvious that my ability to make a difference is any less than yours.

      For readers' information, my qualifications to have something to say on this matter are outlined at Section 4 in http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Sugary-Drinks-Ban.pdf

      On smoking, my dad was a 70-cigarette-a-day man for most of six decades. My earliest memories include the smell of the smoke from his smokes. My mum - a Nursing Sister in country and remote Australia for over four decades - has never smoked.

      Dr Sue, on this thread we can agree on at least one thing: I know whose health I would prefer when I am 75-80.

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    16. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Yes, Dr Sue, taking the time to read research - and read it carefully - certainly is something that we all should encourage. Of course, someone critical might wonder if going through "several hundred published research papers in 30 topics over four days" is something like finding a lake that is 30 miles wide and four inches deep. It seems quite excellent at the time but unfortunately the benefits are ephemeral.

      Have a good weekend, Dr Sue. May I recommend that you sit down with some of the books I highlight in Resources in Section 3 of http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Sugary-Drinks-Ban.pdf

      Then we can have an informed chat on sugar as a menace to public health - like tobacco - in the week ahead.

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    17. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Perry

      John Perry - an extract from WebMD does not constitute evidence.

      How can the research be either evaluated or written off if you don't cite it, or explain what physiological principles it involves?

      Was this a clinical study or lab study? Was there any clinical effect? What type of bacteria were involved - were they pathogens?

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    18. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      Mr Robertson, I recommend you read up thoroughly on organic chemistry, physiology, pathology, endocrinology, and critical review of medical research. Then, in a few years, we can talk.

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  9. Louise O'Brien

    Marketer.Communicator. Observer

    People who smoke are going to be a far greater drain on our health system because of their habit than if they did not smoke.

    If the increased taxes adversely effect the poor the most, this is probably a good thing because they are most likely to be using the public health system.

    There are no good reasons why anyone should smoke tobacco.

    The government needs to collect more tax revenue and tobacco is one of the best places to start. If the whole of Australia stops smoking tobacco, as a nation we will be better off, we lose nothing.

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    1. Ken Arrow

      Health Economist

      In reply to Louise O'Brien

      This isn't true. It's more of an ongoing research question, and my reading of the literature is that smokers are expected to have *lower* lifetime healthcare costs than non-smokers.

      Reducing smoking rates will increase total healthcare costs, but is expected to provide good value versus other health interventions (like funding expensive new drugs).

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168851006001928

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    2. Paul Bart

      IT professional

      In reply to Louise O'Brien

      "There are no good reasons why anyone should smoke tobacco."

      Wow. says who Louise? And what else should people not do? And who will decide, you, the government, or I know lets conditioned them not smoke, not to ...,before they get born, Huxley was so right.

      Sad really

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    3. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Paul Bart

      I recently heard a radio presenter asking, 'Why would anyone smoke when you know it makes you sick and could kill you'. Um - because it's fun, makes you feel great, and looks cool?

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    4. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to James Jenkin

      "... it's fun, makes you feel great, and looks cool ..."

      Hate to break it to you - it doesn't.

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    5. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to John Perry

      Hi John, I don't actually smoke so can't speak from experience, But addiction is surely about pleasure. People don't get addicted to hitting themselves with a hammer. Smoking must give some sort of great physical sensation, or you wouldn't do it.

      And some people obviously think it looks cool or teenagers wouldn't take it up.

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  10. Elizabeth Gunn

    Literacy Teacher at Education and Training

    I wonder whether this strategy would work for petrol consumption?

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    1. Jeremy Culberg

      Electrical Asset Manager at Power Generation

      In reply to Elizabeth Gunn

      That is the theory behind the Emissions Trading Scheme - price the item to a point where alternatives will be sought. The alternatives in the case of smoking also include giving it up, which isn't quite so easy with hydrocarbons - in general people aren't willing to give up on electricity (or more to the point, pay for electricity at the cost of the alternatives), or their long distance transport, or modern intensive farming practices, or a significant number of other items which are currently tied to hydrocarbon usage. However, the theory of increasing the price so that alternatives are sought is proven throughout history. This assumes that the price increase is sufficient to make the alternatives viable, which the current price on carbon is not.

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  11. Peter West

    CEO at Property

    Tobacco taxes DO hurt the poor. They spend less on food. People smoke because it is a pleasure. I smoked for years, and gave it up when I didn't want to smoke any more.
    Yes, it IS the nanny state again, interfering in people's lives, in Australia there seems to be no end to the "world improvers".
    I'm in the US, and a packet of cigarettes is about $8, six-pack of Coors Lite $6.
    Australia is 2-3 times more expensive. It is a very expensive destination. There are actually health benefits from smoking…

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    1. Ian Alexander

      Reader

      In reply to Peter West

      Your black skivvy and beard are too tight.

      The libertarian claptrap you espouse shows you to be yet another right wing sucker. Too far up your own ideological clacker to see just how stupid you look when you make these comments (and you are an anti-fluoridation nutter as well. Well done!)

      If cigarettes have the health benefits that you claim then I'd strongly encourage you to start smoking again...heavily. Don't stop. You can be our own Yul Brynner!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNjunlWUJJI

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    2. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Peter West

      "There are actually health benefits from smoking"

      That was the bit where I started laughing.

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    3. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Ian Alexander

      I love that Yul Brynner video. It was big news around the time of his death and for a year or so afterwards. Why do we never see it these days?

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    4. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to Peter West

      Agree totally Peter - actually one thing that has already emerged is a black market so in Australia you can buy chop cheaply, in France you pay half price for black market cigarettes at the Metro, and in England the same as France (albeit you purchase through friends etc).

      And Ian, you'd be far better speaking nicely to people - you sound like a right tosser when you disagree with someone and rather than say something intelligent attack that poster.

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    5. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to Grant Mahy

      Ah yeah and you can also go live in Indo where they're a buck a pack:-) Can't wait to get out of this nanny state again!

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  12. Brian Byrnes

    Retired

    I wonder at what point the price signal will become sufficiently high to make an illegal market in tobacco viable.

    In the past, prices differed between states in Australia and that gave rise to (low level) cross border smuggling of tobacco. I understand the UK is a market for lower cost tobacco being smuggled in from European countries.

    It is a simple matter of market dynamics that if a product can be produced and sold more profitably by illegal means than by legal means, then an illegal market will develop.

    I wonder if we are now close to that point where government risks losing control of the market and the income which flows from it.

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  13. Natasha turnbull

    Student

    No, this government's primary intention is not cutting down smoking rate or eradicating smoking - they would have banned the smoking.

    This government is desperately looking for money to fill their mismanagement hole.

    If all smokers stop smoking, where the government is to get the lucrative revenue?

    I am dismayed that people are so easyly fell into this government's spin.

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      Most people think it was fairly brave of Oz to bring in plain packaging legislation - with the rest of the world looking on and Big Tobacco's lawyers looming.

      This was done for no gain in revenue by the government, no?

      How easy do you think it would be for the government to ban smoking within the next few years?

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    2. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      "If all smokers stop smoking, where the government is to get the lucrative revenue?"

      Do you know how much smoking costs us as a society? Or are you just pretending that you don't?

      I am dismayed you are "so easyly fell" into Big Tobacco's spin.

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    3. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      The hypocrisy of those people bleating about the poor suffering by having their lives saved is nauseating. The majority of so-called poor smokers would want to give up their filthy habit. Why do so many people think that the rich and the poor have different aspirations? Those who would answer thus are merely being patronising.

      The government may well be wanting money. This, in no way, can detract from the positive effects of reducing smoking. The best thing any smoker can do is give it up.

      The above is as close to saying bullshit to your vacuous comment as I can get.

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    4. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      "The hypocrisy of those people bleating about the poor suffering by having their lives saved is nauseating."

      Maybe the poor don't want their lives saved Venise. Maybe the poor can't really wait to get the F...! out of here and in the meantime have at least one enjoyment. Maybe you've just never been poor enough to understand that life is a pain in the ass and any enjoyment at all is better than no enjoyment. Australia is fascist about smoking and their poxy regulations disadvantage largely the mentally ill and the impoverished.

      To quote you:

      "The above is as close to saying bullshit to your vacuous comment as I can get."

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    5. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Grant Mahy

      "Australia is fascist about smoking"

      Australian SMOKERS are certainly fascist about their right to be able to litter their butts wherever they like.

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    6. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to John Perry

      Hey John do you know how much prohibition costs society? Prisons are expensive you know and where we are going when all else fails is towards a prohibition model.

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    7. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Grant Mahy

      They also pollute the storm water and the marine life. I've heard similar justifications from dog owners who believe they don't need to scoop because the turds are good for the grass.

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    8. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Grant Mahy

      Are prisons our only form of punishment?

      I would have thought that hip pocket disincentives in the forms of higher taxes, fines, and the threat of bankruptcy might also work well.

      Those options don't seem so expensive, do they? In fact, quite the opposite.

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    9. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to John Perry

      Yep then the government should enforce littering fines. Another subject altogether.

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  14. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    "... while it can be easily dismissed as “radical”, perhaps in the not-so-distant future, smokers themselves will need to obtain a license in order to purchase tobacco." Nicotine and alcohol should be available only with a doctor's prescription, if we want to be serious about combating the harm of these socially-accepted drugs. Of course, we are not serious about confronting the harms of alcohol, so my wishful thinking is not going to be rewarded any time soon.

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  15. Venise Alstergren
    Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

    photographer, blogger.

    When people are unable to control their own addictions perhaps governments should step in. People actually lose their lives with smoking related diseases yet we continue to tolerate the lies of the big tobacco companies. If it sets a precedent, tough.

    Anyone concerned about sugar should be. It can't be an accident that tobacco companies load their cigarettes with sugar, or that sugar-even when maintaining a correct dental régime-rots the teeth. It is better to live in a 'Nanny state', than Dickensian London.

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    1. Grant Mahy

      Unemployed

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      "When people are unable to control their own addictions perhaps governments should step in."

      Yep they tried this with alcohol prohibition and the drug war. These models and the lessons we should take from them strongly tell us that governments should not step in. At which point will we begin incarcerating people due to ridiculous proposed legislation in e.g. Tasmania to prohibit yet another drug?

      "People actually lose their lives with smoking related diseases yet we continue to tolerate the lies of the big tobacco companies."

      People lose their lives every day from all manner of things. No one believes the lies from big tobacco companies (this is an anachronistic oversimplification) but people continue to smoke through choice.

      "It is better to live in a 'Nanny state'"

      Interesting how someone who claims to be a lefty would even say this. At which point does the nanny put on jack boots (as is arguably the case in Australia now).

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    2. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      "It can't be an accident that tobacco companies load their cigarettes with sugar". That is an excellent point, Venise. Readers, here is some further detail on that:

      "Sweeteners
      Sweeteners are used to affect the flavour, making cigarettes more appealing to some
      consumers. Some researchers are currently examining a proposed link between the presence of
      sugars in tobacco and the formation during combustion of acetaldehyde, a carcinogen and
      respiratory irritant. In addition, there has been…

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      ''Where is Dr Sue when we need her to explain again''

      Here she is, ready to explain again, and again...

      Adding sugar to cigarettes may well make them more palatable, but it's the nicotine that makes them addictive. Not the sugar.

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    4. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Of course, Dr Sue, there is not much you do not know off the top of your head. You knew instinctively that if it is really yummy then it can't be addictive. And yet, here is Dr Eric Clapton explaining that sugar is addictive. Of course, there's no comparison with tobacco: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVPmfMDFS9A

      And let's not forget that "More doctors prefer Camel", a big-selling US cigarette brand back in the day. Yes, we should trust trained health professionals, instinctively. What could…

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