Australian cigarette smokers will pay over $45 per pack (about $33.86 in US Dollars) by 2020 in a move the Australian government hopes will cut back on smoking Down Under, as well as raise $4.7 billion in tax revenue.
As the Guardian reports, Australia intends to raise the cigarette tax incrementally, 12.5 percent each year beginning in 2017 and ending in 2020. Some of the additional revenues raised by the tax will go to fight smuggling of cigarettes into the country, which the government believes will increase due to the high taxes.
The Australian cigarette tax increase comes as the nation undergoes an aggressive, decades-long nationwide anti-smoking campaign. Backers of the high cigarette taxes say the high tax rates along with other measures taken by the government, have cut cigarette smoking rates in Australia from 25 percent of the population in 1993 to less than 15 percent in 2013.
In addition to high cigarette taxes, the Australian government also tightly regulates cigarette packaging, according to a November 2011 Guardian report. Smokes are sold in plain, olive-green boxes — determined to be the least-appealing color — and the manufacturer and brand names are only allowed in small print. Much of the space on the boxes is given over to government-mandated warnings containing disgusting and disturbing photographs intended to deter smokers.
John Faulkner, a senator from the left-leaning Labor Party, defended the packaging.
“If this legislation stops one young Australian from picking up a shiny, coloured packet and prevents them becoming addicted to cigarettes then in my view it will have been worthwhile.”
Meanwhile, Scott McIntyre, the spokesman for British American Tobacco Australia, said that the Australian government is taking property — that is, valuable space on the packaging — from tobacco manufacturers.
“The government can’t take away valuable property from a legal company without compensation.We’re a legal company with legal products selling to adults who know the risks of smoking. We’re taking this to the high court because we believe the removal of our valuable intellectual property is unconstitutional.”
Australia’s strict cigarette packaging laws are the subject of an international lawsuit, and some of the money raised from the increased taxes will be set aside to fight that lawsuit.
Worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on governments to aggressively fight tobacco use through bans on tobacco ads, graphic warnings on packaging, strong efforts at fighting cigarette smuggling, and high taxes on cigarettes.
“The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing around 6 million people a year. More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.”
According to Cigarettes Reporter, Australians already pay the most per-pack for cigarettes than anywhere else in the world, at $16.11 (U.S.) per pack as of June 2015.
In the United States, the price of a pack of smokes varies widely from state to state, as each state adds their own unique taxes. The most expensive place to be a smoker in the U.S., according to International Business Times, is New York City. Thanks to a state excise tax of $4.35 per pack, and a city excise tax of $1.60 per pack, a pack of smokes in the Big Apple costs over $14.
The cheapest place to be a smoker in the U.S. is Kentucky. With a total tax bill of only $.60, a pack of smokes in the Bluegrass State costs about a third of what a New Yorker pays, around $4.96 per pack.
Do you think Australia should charge high taxes on cigarettes to discourage smoking?
[Image via Shutterstock/Julia Velychko]