AUSTRALIA – The Australian Government has proposed new legislation to update and improve the graphic warnings on the packaging of cigarettes to reduce the country’s national smoking rate.

This update was shared by Australian Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler in a media release. If passed, the legislation will come into effect from 1 April 2024.

Associated industry partners in Australia will be given a year to adhere to the requirements while local retailers will be given an additional three months.

The change mainly focuses on updating the existing graphic warnings given on cigarette packaging by now extending these warnings to individual cigarettes.

The proposed law further intends to standardize the size of tobacco packets and products, including the appearance and design of the filters, sold across the country.

The government also aims to create more transparency in terms of sales volumes, product content, and advertising or promotional activities related to tobacco products.

The use of appealing names on the product’s packaging that promote the idea of reduced harm will also be restricted.

Other measures proposed under this law include eliminating the use of certain additives in the product such as menthols and requiring health promotion inserts in packs/pouches.

Butler said: “Australia has been a leader in public health measures to discourage smoking, but after a decade of inaction, the gains of Labor’s world-leading plain packaging laws have been squandered.

“Since the inception of plain packaging, big tobacco has become increasingly creative and cunning with their marketing tactics.

“This legislation will allow Australia to reclaim its position as a world leader on tobacco control.”

The proposed changes come more than a decade after rules around plain packaging of cigarettes was introduced by the then Labor government.

Smoking rates have flatlined

The National Tobacco Strategy commits to reducing daily smoking prevalence to below 10 percent by 2025 and 5 percent or less by 2030.

The current smoking rates in Australia are about 12 percent and Mr. Butler said that had flatlined in recent years, which justified the need for new legislation.

“I am not going to raise the white flag on smoking at 12 percent of adults, I am not going to raise the white flag at a time when smoking rates among our youngest citizens are climbing,” he said.

“There is sometimes this idea that the current group of smokers are hardened and are never going to be shifted. The research does not reflect that.

 “We are determined to meet the targets that were set out in the national tobacco strategy that has been agreed by all governments.”

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