‘Come to where the flavour is’, ‘It’s toasted’, ‘Anyhow, have a Winfield’. All slogans of another generation, all slogans trying to sell cigarettes. Where did all these slogans go? Because let’s face it, it’s pretty enticing to smoke when you have a handsome cowboy telling you to he can take you away or when you find out 20,679 physicians recommend Lucky Strikes due to the ‘less irritating’ feeling. At one point in time believe it or not you could just smoke literally anywhere. Cars, planes, buses, pubs, restaurants, bars, your local Woolies, AROUND FOOD. Nowhere, and no one, had the power to deny you your little nicotine fix. If I’ve learnt anything from Mad Men it would be you were pretty much expected to smoke. When I was in year 12 and my dad found out I was smoking he didn’t really do anything about it, in his mind it was sort of the norm for some rebellious punk teen to do.
Things have changed though, because now we know the full effects of the tobacco industry and the harm of all those durries that were smoked by rock stars, actors and deadbeat writers. In a bold move most developed countries don’t even advertise cigarettes anymore, we’ve made a shift from Donald Drapers charm into a real world of ‘hey you probably shouldn’t do that because you will get cancer and probably die’. And because of this it really has come to no surprise that Australia has been doing all it can to reduce smoking. You can’t smoke anywhere anymore. In the ACT and QLD you can’t even smoke outside cafes or pubs. And don’t get me wrong, this move is definitely for the best and I am fully behind ways to reduce second hand smoke, littering and that gross smell that lingers.
Over the coming years though we’re about to see the newest biggest move to stop smoking. As a nation we have been heavily taxing tobacco for years with packs and pouches going up a dollar or two each year. When I was in year 12 and being some edgy punk teenager a 30 gram pouch, papers and filters was less than $20 but these you’d be lucky to get all that under $30. That’s a $10 hike just over four years. What Australia now aims to do is raise the price of packets of cigarettes to $40+ by 2020 basically doubling the price in a move to stop people smoking and to also reduce the amount of people that start. And sure, that is all well and good and stats show that plain packaging alone has done a lot to reduce smoking but when prices rise what’s going to be the outcome? Yes smoking will be reduced but really these hikes are going to be affecting a specific class, the lower class.
Studies have shown that in most cases those from a lower socioeconomic background smoke more. This includes the under paid, the unemployed, the low educated and the homeless. According to the National Network of Smoking Prevention and Poverty those from a low socioeconomic background tend to turn to smoking as a means to prevent boredom, deal with stress and used as a companion alongside things such as alcohol and caffeine. This pretty much means that raising the cost of tobacco will really be effecting those that don’t quite have the money for the habit already. And sure it would make sense that a factor like this would cause them to give it up but other stats found by the NNSPP is that rather than quit during these price hikes they just go without things they can no longer afford. The problem I have with this is that not only will we see people going without basics – food, clothes, bills etc. – is that caught in the middle of this are children. And I don’t want to take a stab at anyone saying this but as has been found this is a cycle that people will fall into where children could potentially go without which in turn puts their kids in the smoking cycle.
And the problem here is a rather ethical issue. Although it would be good to completely stop smoking throughout the 21st century, is it worth it if that this coming generation finds themselves missing out due to it? I think one of the biggest issues with this big rise in tax comes down to the fact that it is also taking away the Australian freedom to do what you want. Each year we’re seeing Australia become more and more of a nanny state. Yes it is bad but it’s not your decision anymore on whether or not I can smoke myself and I think if you just try to push it under the rug nothing will really come of it.
Though it’s being put in place to reduce smoking it’s really only be going to affect those who can’t afford it. Australia needs to become less of a nanny state and give its people the right of choice, the right to do whatever they want. Because let’s face it, smoking is bad, it kills people and puts people in hospital for something they could have not gotten but at the end of the day it’s about the right to choose what you do or don’t with your body. Rather than just make it more expensive and take the easiest root there are other options to reduce smoking and leave people with their freedom of choice.