Jul. 16 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – Australian health officials today reported that the nation’s smoking rate has dropped by more than 15 percent – from 15.1 percent in 2010 to 12.8 percent in 2013 – following implementation of a landmark law requiring that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging. This dramatic decline follows a sustained commitment by the Australian government to implement a comprehensive set of measures to drive down smoking.
Australia’s success in reducing smoking is powerful evidence that strong measures like plain packaging can have an immediate and measureable impact among both youth and adults. The Australian survey measured the percentage of Australians aged 14 and older who smoked daily and was conducted in 2013, after the December, 1, 2012, implementation of the law requiring tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging, free of colorful logos and other branding.
In addition to pioneering plain packaging, Australia has been a global leader in implementing other effective tobacco control policies. Australia was among the first countries to introduce graphic cigarette warnings and restrict tobacco advertising. In 2010, the Australian government increased tobacco taxes by 25 percent, with additional tax increases scheduled through 2016.
Australia’s dramatic results should spur action by other countries considering plain packaging, including the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand. These countries have faced predictably intense opposition from the tobacco industry, which has fought plain packaging every step of the way just as it did in Australia. Tobacco companies brought lawsuits against the Australian government, with Australia’s courts ultimately upholding the plain packaging law. They have also filed a pending lawsuit claiming the law violates international trade and investment agreements – a tactic increasingly used by the tobacco industry to bully countries and discourage implementation of strong tobacco control policies.
The tobacco industry has also recently promoted misleading data in an attempt to discredit plain packaging in Australia. But the new Australian survey shows the tobacco industry’s worst nightmares are coming true: Cutting-edge policies like plain packaging can contribute to significant declines in tobacco use.
We applaud Australia for taking strong, innovative and sustained action to reduce tobacco use, the world’s number one cause of preventable death. They are providing an example to the world of what must be done to reduce the one billion deaths worldwide tobacco is projected to cause this century.