Its seems like we already know the health risks of smoking here in the US with common phrases like “Pass me a cancer stick?” But the Australian government wants its citizens to get a clear image of what they are getting themselves into.
As of December 2012, in Australia the cigarette packs will not have brand labels or glossy colored packages. They will only contain large health warnings and gruesome images on a dull color paper backing. Images could be anything from a sickly child on a respirator, to a gangrenous foot or rotting teeth. The hope is that by making the packaging unattractive (scary?) potential smokers will pass on them.
Experts in Australia say they don’t expect the change to have a major impact on existing smokers. However, findings from The World Health Organization Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011 demonstrated that pictorial labels have an ability to significantly reduce the number of current smokers and those picking up the habit.
The proportion of smokers in Australia is relatively low compared to the US and Europe, with only 2.5% of 12-17 year olds and 15% of adults smoking everyday. Australia believes the country will benefit economically ($31 Billion) from reducing the number of smoking related deaths and diseases in the country. The benefit greatly outweighs the amount the country gains in tax revenue from tobacco sales ($5.8 Billion).
Tobacco companies absolutely detest the decision, arguing it is unlawful acquisition of their property and they plan to challenge it in Australian high court. Whether or not other countries follow Australia’s lead may depend on the outcomes in the Australian high court, as well as the outcomes in the public health arena. The US planned on mandating graphic health warnings on packets starting September 2012, but because of a subsequent legal suit from tobacco companies the requirement has been put on hold.