Plain packaging will help to deter young smokers: Bendigo academic

PLAIN-packaged cigarettes will help lower the number of young people who smoke, a leading health expert says.

La Trobe University’s Faculty of Health Dean Professor Hal Swerissen said yesterday’s High Court ruling that plain-packaging laws were constitutionally valid would go some way to eliminating the desirability of cigarettes to young people.

“I think it’s a fantastic thing,” he said at La Trobe Bendigo’s campus yesterday. 

“The government should be congratulated for passing this legislation. It should make a significant difference.”

Professor Swerissen said cigarette companies deliberately targeted teens with marketing strategies because the majority of smokers started between the ages of 15 and 24.

He said very few people took it up after their mid-twenties.

“The reason the big tobacco companies spend so much on branding, logos and packaging is because it encourages people to take up smoking and it is directly targeted at young people,” he said.

“We know if you keep smoking long-term, half the people die.”

Professor Swerissen said while eliminating branding on packaging would go some way to preventing youths taking up smoking, more needed to be done.

He said higher taxes, banning vending machines in pubs and restricting the amount of places cigarettes could be bought were the next steps for the government.

“Young people always want to experiment and there’s peer pressure as well,” Professor Swerissen said.

“But there are lots of options, we have to make it unattractive and change the likelihood of it being bought.”

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