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Tobacco tax hiked to stamp out vaping and smoking

Revenue from a federal budget hike in tobacco taxes will go towards programs to reduce smoking rates and vaping.

Revenue from a federal budget hike in tobacco taxes will go towards programs to reduce smoking rates and vaping. Photo: Getty

The federal government will increase the tax on tobacco to bring in an extra $3.3 billion over the next four years as it rolls out measures to crack down on smoking and vaping.

Recreational vaping will be banned as the government seeks to prevent the next generation of nicotine addicts.

Health Minister Mark Butler announced at the National Press Club on Tuesday the tobacco tax would be raised by 5 per cent a year over the next three years, starting from September.

“As we stamp out the growing black market in illegal vaping, we also need to prevent young people from trading their vapes for cigarettes,” he said.

“That is why this budget will also include measures to bring smoking rates down, to protect people from taking it up and additional support for current and former smokers to look after their health.

“We know that a higher price cigarette is a more unattractive cigarette.”

It follows a $234 million boost in next Tuesday’s upcoming budget for tougher regulation of e-cigarettes, including controls on importation and packaging.

The government will work with the states and territories to shut down the sale of vapes in retail and convenience stores, while making it easier to get a prescription for therapeutic use.

To tackle the growing black market, the government will increase the product standards for vapes, including by restricting flavours and colours.

It will require pharmaceutical-like packaging, a reduction in the allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes, and a ban on single-use vapes.

Mr Butler revealed the scale of the public health issue, with children under the age of four having been reported to Victoria’s poisons hotline after they used a vape.

“This is a product targeted at our kids, sold alongside lollies and chocolate bars,” he said.

“Vaping has become the No.1 behavioural issue in high schools, and it’s becoming widespread in primary schools. This must end.”

Federal government launches vaping crackdown

Mr Butler said the hard-won gains in public health relating to the reduction in smoking could be undone by a “new threat”.

“Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit,” he said.

“It was not sold as a recreational product, especially not one for our kids. But that is what it has become – the biggest loophole in Australian history.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the Coalition would support measures to reduce vaping rates.

“There is a significant problem in our country, it needs to be addressed,” he said in Sydney.

“I don’t want to see vaping as a gateway into smoking and I want to see us prioritise the health particularly of young people, so we will support sensible measures, but we haven’t seen anything yet from the government by way of detail.”

Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson also backed the move.

“We know the new young generation of Australians are being hooked on vapes and this is a great initiative,” he said.

“If you are going to vape it needs to be part of a step-down program coming off cigarettes and then ultimately off vapes, so that you are not inhaling anything dangerous at all.

“Lord only knows what they contain.”

A $63 million public health campaign will be launched to discourage Australians from taking up vaping and to encourage them to quit.

Support programs helping Australians quit the habit will be bolstered by a $30 million investment, with education in smoking and nicotine cessation among health practitioners to be strengthened.

The government will commit a further $140 million for a program helping Indigenous people stop smoking, which will be expanded to include vaping.

– with AAP

Topics: Mark Butler
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