Australia will put warning signs on individual cigarettes, ban flavoured and menthol cigarettes and increase the price of rolling tobacco in a major new effort to curb the habit.
The moves are part of sweeping new anti-smoking laws announced by Federal Health Minister Mark Butler on Wednesday, which will also see roll-your-own tobacco made more expensive and a major review to try and curb the widespread use of e-cigarettes.
Mr Butler announced the new laws on Wednesday and also flagged that cigarette products will be standardised to remove marketing advantages used by tobacco companies despite the introduction of plain packaging just over a decade ago.
The Albanese government has announced major new anti-smoking laws, which will ban flavoured tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes
In a speech to commemorate that change, which was a world-first brought in by the Labor government under Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Mr Butler said the government aimed to more than halve the current number of smokers by 2030.
‘Today is an important first step in re-establishing our (Australia’s) reputation as a global leader in tobacco control,’ Mr Butler said.
A first step will be updating the already graphic warnings printed on cigarette packets, which often show the results of cancer on the body.
‘At best, those warnings are ignored, and at worst, they are mocked,’ Mr Butler said.
The Albanese government is also looking at making the cigarettes inside wrapped in unattractive colours, with each having a warning, such as ‘smoking kills’, printed on them.
Under the new laws the warnings on cigarette packets will be updated and cigarettes themselves may be made in ‘uglier’ colours and have individual health alerts
Advocacy group the Cancer Council backed the proposed changes saying they had proved successful in places such as Canada.
‘The colours that the research has looked at so far are things like a very yucky brown or a sludgy green, they’re not the sorts of things that you want to put in your mouth,’ spokesperson Megan Varlow told the ABC.
‘Coupled with the warnings that we see on packs, what they do is they reinforce the harms associated with cigarettes, and remind people every time they have a smoke.
‘So if there’s 20 cigarettes in a packet, that’s 20 reminders of the damage that the cigarette is doing.’
Marketing or branding terms such as ‘organic’ or ‘light’ will also be banned.
‘There is nothing ‘light’ about lung cancer,’ Mr Butler said.
A major review will look at how to curb the popularity of e-cigarettes, otherwise known as vaping, which has exploded in use among young people
New anti-smoking measures coming to Australia
Menthol and other flavoured cigarettes are to be banned
Cigarettes will be made a standard make and size
New warnings will be placed on packets
Individual cigarettes may also have health warnings and presented in ‘ugly colours’
Marketing words such as ‘light’ or ‘organic’ to be banned
Health promotions are to be put in tobacco products
Roll-your-own (rollies) tobacco will be made more expensive
Advertising regulation to be reviewed and to include e-cigarettes (vaping)
Major review to look at how to curb the spread of vaping, especially with young users
Health promotion inserts will have to be included in packets and advertising regulations will be expanded to include e-cigarettes with regulations to ensure tobacco companies are transparent about ingredients and emissions.
Mr Butler flagged a major review into e-cigarettes, otherwise known as vaping, by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Vaping products containing nicotine have been illegal without a doctor’s prescription for more than a year but their use had nevertheless skyrocketed.
An estimated 400,000 Australians regularly vape and it has become hugely popular among young people, with an estimated one in 10 people between 16 and 24 vaping.
The new laws will ban words such as ‘light’ or ‘organic’ on tobacco products and review all promotions and advertising
Mr Butler said especially alarming was the huge uptake of vaping by school children who are buying them online and even being given them by parents, with some products having no labelling as to what is in them.
‘Vapes that are marketed out there with pink unicorns, bubble gum flavours, fruit flavours — they are not being marketed to adults,’ he said.
Mr Butler said when plain packaging was introduced to Australia, 16 per cent of the population smoked. That figure is now down to just under 11 per cent, with the new laws aiming to reduce the figure to below 10 per cent by 2025.
Health Minister Mark Butler (pictured) said the Albanese government aims to more than halve the number of smokers in the next eight years
By 2030 the aim is to have the number of people smoking below five per cent of the population.
‘Tobacco smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability,’ Mr Butler said.
‘In my lifetime, as young as I am, in my lifetime smoking has killed more than a million Australians.
‘Every year, tobacco still claims the lives of more than 20,000.’