The Ballarat and Grampians regions would be among the hardest hit under a proposal by the federal opposition to increase the price of a packet of cigarettes to $40 by 2020.
The proposal would result in smokers paying 75 per cent tax on a packet of 25 cigarettes by 2020, over $10 more than the current estimate of $29.91 for 2020.
The changes would have a large effect on Ballarat residents, as data released in October 2013 found the Grampians region, including Ballarat, had the highest adult smoking rate in the county at 28 per cent.
Ballarat Community Health chief executive officer Robyn Reeves said while the figure was now closer to 23 per cent, the region’s smoking rate was still among the highest in the country.
Ms Reeves said while an increase in the tax rate on tobacco would encourage smokers to kick the habit, more needed to be done across the board to address the issue.
“Some of that money raised needs to go into resources to help people quit smoking.”
Ballarat local Mick Maurer has been smoking for 50 years and labelled the proposal as “ridiculous”, but said it would encourage him to consider kicking the habit.
“It’s not about the money,” Mr Maurer said.
“But why waste ($40) on something that is going to kill you in the end when you could put the $40 to better use?”
The proposal comes after the Labor Party introduced the tobacco excise back in 2013, which has resulted a 12.5 per cent increase in the price of tobacco annually over four years.
In the same year the national smoking rate among adults was 13.3 per cent, far below the rate recorded in the Grampians region.
Ballarat MP and Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said while she was aware the move would impact poorer members of the community, it was a necessary step to take.
“I’m in no doubt this will hit people in low socio-economic areas, but those people die more (from smoking related illness),” Ms King said. “If we are going to continue to drive smoking down we have to.”
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