Cigarette price hike next step in reducing deaths

VICTORIAN doctors yesterday called on the State Government to increase the cost of cigarettes to help cut smoking rates.Under the proposal, the cost of a cigarette would rise by 10 cents in July 2010, 15 cents in 2011 and 20 cents in 2012 _ increasing the cost of a pack of 30 to about $20 from July 2012.The move, while unlikely to impress all smokers to quit, has merit.According to the Australian Medical Association Victoria president Dr Harry Hemley, smoking is the largest cause of preventable disease in Victoria, causing about 4000 deaths each year.And Cancer Council Victoria statistics show lung cancer _ of which up to 90 per cent of cases are caused by smoking _ remains the leading cause of cancer death.Furthermore, in a Cancer Council Victoria survey this year, three quarters of smokers said they would quit if the price of cigarettes rose by half.The research also showed six out of 10 regular smokers said they would smoke less if prices were to go up by 50 per cent.The State Government has already shown it is prepared to take action to reduce smoking.From Friday, people will be banned from smoking in motor vehicles with children under 18 when new tobacco laws come into force.Those caught breaking the laws face on-the-spot fines of $233.The bans are part of the Government's Victorian Tobacco Control Strategy 2008-2013 released last December.Health Minister Daniel Andrews, upon releasing the strategy, said the Government aimed to reduce smoking in the adult population from 17.3 per cent to 13.8 per cent, or by 20 per cent, in five years.Introducing a new tobacco transaction tax may help achieve this target.More importantly, a price rise may discourage children from starting smoking in the first place.Dr Hemley, in calling for the change, said "a significant price increase should be the next step in reducing the addiction, disease and death we see from cigarette smoking."And while smokers must take responsibility for their own actions, it is hard to disagree.