Australia has the highest priced cigarettes in the world, so why aren't people quitting?

Samuel Hussey
News Reporter

England, USA, Canada, Norway and Iceland are among a long list of western countries that are seeing their citizens kick the habit but Australia’s 2.6 million smokers are lagging behind with just a 0.2 per cent decrease in smokers between 2013 to 2016.

Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn, Chairman of Australia’s Tobacco Harm Reduction Association, told Yahoo7 News that the “high prices simply aren’t working anymore”.

“Australia is no longer the world leader in tobacco control it once was,” he said.

Australia’s once declining population of smokers has hit a wall. Source: Getty

“I think we have taken our eye off the ball, there is this idea that we have dealt with smoking and that we now need to move onto ice addiction and other health problems… addicted smokers who haven’t quit by now aren’t just going to suddenly quit smoking.

“Smoking is still the most preventable cause of death in Australia, we still lose 19,000 people to tobocco each year in Australia

“Up into 2012 we used to have regular national campaigns but now all we have is the occasional advertisement, it does not receive the comprehensive coverage it used to.”

In Japan, tobacco sales fell by an unprecedented 27% over the last two years, while smoking rates in the UK and US have also been declining faster than ever before.

But Dr Mendelsohn said the key difference between Australia and those countries was regular access to less harmful alternatives that provide the nicotine hit smokers crave.

Australia experienced a mere 0.2 per cent drop in smokers between 2013 and 2016. Source: Source: Supplied/ATHRA

“For those who cannot or will not quit, safer alternatives such as vaping, heat-not-burn or snus should be made available – as they are in many other countries. The goal of these products is to reduce the harm to health from smoking, not necessarily to stop nicotine,” he added.

Last month, NSW joined Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT in introducing laws banning the use of e-cigarettes in areas including shopping centres, cinemas, libraries, trains, buses, public swimming pools, parks, sports grounds and outdoor dining areas.

“There is no known measurable effects of being around vapers, it is relatively harmless, there is no health reason to ban it,” Dr Mendelsohn said.

“We are punishing smokers who just can’t quit and it’s hurting them financially as well as physically.”

Despite boasting the most expensive cigarettes in the world, Australia’s 2.6 million smokers don’t seem to be in a rush to quit. Source: Supplied/ATHRA

But a spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt disputed ATHRA’s claims, saying there is strong medical research supporting the ban of nicotine that can be used in e-cigarettes.

“The commercial supply of nicotine for the use of e-cigarettes is prohibited by legislation in all states and territories,” the spokesperson told Yahoo7 News.

“The overwhelming medical advice and evidence is that it’s likely to lead to the uptake of smoking and we cannot support that.

This is the view of the TGA,  Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Chief Health Officers from all Australian states and territories and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

If you or someone you know is trying to quit smoking and need further help, call Quitline 13 78 48 or head to their website.