Public health experts liken phasing out tobacco retailing to removing asbestos and lead paint from the market

Governments must set a date for banning the sale of cigarettes through retailers including supermarkets, and find new ways of boosting revenue without relying on tobacco excise taxes, leading public health researchers say.

It comes as research published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) on Monday found 1,466 respondents (52.8%) to a Victorian Cancer Council survey agreed with phasing out the sale of cigarettes in retail outlets.

“Sometimes the public is ahead of the policy,” associate prof Coral Gartner, an international expert in tobacco control policy with the University of Queensland, said.

In a separate MJA piece also published on Monday, Gartner and her colleagues wrote it is time for governments to move beyond measures that focus on consumers such as plain-packaging laws and tobacco-harm warnings, and start focusing on supply.

There is an urgent need for “ending the regulatory exceptionalism that has maintained the legal status of tobacco products as a consumer good”, the piece says.

“Cigarettes do not meet modern consumer product safety standards,” Gartner and her colleagues wrote.

“It is normal for governments to remove unsafe products such as contaminated food, asbestos, and lead paint from the market. The successful defence of Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws against international trade disputes demonstrates that governments have the right to introduce tobacco control measures to protect the health of its citizens, even when these measures reduce commercial profits and have an impact on international trade.”

Gartner, who is the director of the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence on Achieving the Tobacco Endgame, told Guardian Australia while it may appear Australia is a world leader in tobacco control, due to plain packaging laws and graphic warning labels, other countries have gone further.

Read full article here.

Melissa Davey – The Guardian – 2021-11-14.

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