THE Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) welcomes plain paper packaging for cigarettes – an initiative that started across Australia on Saturday – but recognises it is only the first step.
Tobacco use is the largest cause of preventable death in Australia. There is a tobacco-related death about every 28 minutes in Australia, adding up to more than 50 deaths each day.
Plain packaging for cigarettes has the potential to reduce the high rates of mortality and morbidity due to tobacco smoking in generations to come. This is a great initial step taken by the government that should be applauded.
While plain packaging is a critical step in the right direction, the RACP encourages the government to consider its current investments through the Future Fund, the independent account in which the government invests reserves.
Though a positive development, plain packaging will take time to effect change. The government should use its plain packaging victory as the launch pad for its next move, stopping investments in the tobacco industry via the Future Fund.
The RACP says that strong action by the government is now required, and the Future Fund has an important link to the public health of all Australians.
Future Fund investments should be aligned with the best interests of the public.
Drawing on the profit of the tobacco industry to build the Future Fund is not a defensible, nor a sustainable model.
Public money should not continue to be invested into an industry that is responsible for up to 15,000 Australian deaths a year.
The highest rates of daily smoking among Australian men (by age) in 2010 were in the 30-39 and 40-49-years age groups (both at 20.2 per cent) and for women, in the 40-49-years age group (18.8 per cent).
The RACP has been an active advocate for the implementation of plain packaging, and congratulates the government for what can be recognised as a historic victory for public health.
The removal of marketing and promotional material at the point of sale is critical to breaking the grip smoking has on society.
Multiple stakeholders have roles to play in the development of effective public health policy, including medical colleges, healthcare professionals and the government.
Working collaboratively to combat the challenge of smoking is key to improving the healthcare outcomes of all Australians.
The RACP will continue to advocate for pioneering measures to improve the health and well-being of all Australians.
There are multiple strategies to support quitting smoking.
The RACP recommends visiting the Quit Now website for more information on tactics and support avenues:
Dr Leslie E Bolitho AM,
Royal Australasian College