Smoking tobacco is one of the most self-inflicted causes of death and disease in Australia to date. Despite having implemented a range of tobacco control policies since 1973 and being one of the first nations to announce the implementation of the tobacco plain packaging laws. 2010 introduced a packaging policy funded by the Australian government, implementing tobacco packaging requirements demanding all tobacco goods to display visual health warning images on 75% of the front surface area and 90% of the back surface area (Freeman, 2019). Specified for no company logos, trademarks or brand colours to be incorporated into packaging design, creative or branded aspects of company branding were replaced by product and brand descriptions identified in a grey standardised typeface and size (Freeman, Chapman and Rimmer, 2008).
An area of public health where the ultimate intentions and aim of targeted campaigns and policies are not so complex and nuanced like some other areas of public health. The clear intentions of protecting non-smokers, supporting smokers to quit, and reducing the numbers of new smokers, tobacco control in Australia has successfully achieved the desired results. Statistics confirm the decline in daily smokers between 1995 and 2017-18 to have decreased from 23.8% to 13.8% (4364.0.55.001 – National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18, 2019). Further studies have also proved that connections between the execution of the plain packaging in Australia and smoking Quitline calls, resulted in a 78% increase of calls to Quitline referred to the plain packaging initiative (Magnusson, 2014).
A definite public health campaign success story the initiative holds many positives, however, the unsettling fact that ‘there is simply no other legal product sold openly on the market today that has [the] same devastating human toll’ as smoking tobacco evokes my common sense as raises the question why (Freeman, 2019). Why aren’t we doing more to raise awareness and prevent smokers from choosing to slowly kill themselves?
Today, plain packaging laws have created their impact but it is now time for more action. As society has become accustomed to the unpleasant images and warnings, new campaigns or systems need to be implemented to re-create a new impact and deter smokers. I present this opinion based on my own personal observations and relationship as smoking seems to be even more relevant than not. Whether friends are social smokers or smoke routinely, knowledge of the ugly consequences of smoking is definitely identified, however, excused by the youth factor of being young and invincible or the idea that smoking is a means to socialise.
Living in the 21st century in Australia the health effects and dangers of smoking are predominantly well known. And although consequences are known, the act of quitting and overcoming tobacco addiction requires a strong will and defiant extra push. However, I am a strong believer in the idea small changes create a larger impact so maybe the change we are waiting for is just around the corner!
11A.1 Plain packaging as a solution to the misleading and promotional power of packaging – Tobacco in Australia 2018, Tobaccoinaustralia.org.au. viewed 16 November 2019, <https://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-11-advertising/indepth-11a-packaging-as-promotion/11a-1-plain-packaging-as-a-solution>.
4364.0.55.001 – National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18 2019, Abs.gov.au. viewed 16 November 2019, <https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2017-18~Main%20Features~Smoking~85>.
Freeman, B. 2019, Thinking outside the box: Tobacco plain packaging and the demise of smoking, Successful Public Policy: Lessons from Australia and New Zealand, pp.303-326,.
Freeman, B., Chapman, S. and Rimmer, M. 2008, The case for the plain packaging of tobacco products, Addiction, vol 103, no 4, pp.580-590,.
Magnusson, R. 2014, The association between tobacco plain packaging and Quitline calls, Medical Journal of Australia, vol 200, no 6, pp.314-315,.
Voon, P. 2018, Big tobacco vs Australia’s plain packaging, Pursuit. viewed 16 November 2019, <https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/big-tobacco-vs-australia-s-plain-packaging>.