Australia - call for tobacco tax increase to fight chronic diseases..

March 19, 2009 - Health leaders are calling for a big tax increase to fight tobacco – after new figures showed Australia’s seven leading causes of death are all linked with smoking. The latest survey from the Australian Bureau of Statistics* shows that the leading causes of death in the decade 1998-2007 were ischaemic heart disease, strokes, trachea/lung cancer, dementia/Alzheimers, chronic lower respiratory diseases, colorectal cancer and diabetes.

The tobacco tax, which has not increased in real terms for a decade, has been shown to reduce smoking rates significantly.

Increased tobacco tax would also raise much needed revenue for public health programs. Tens of thousands of Australians die each year from preventable diseases, yet less than two per cent of health system expenditure goes towards prevention programs.

Says Dr Matthew Peters, Chairman of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia: “Tobacco remains our number one preventable cause of death – and daylight is second.
Tobacco been long recognised as a major factor in Australia’s enduring top three causes of death – heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. And research in recent years has also linked both active and passive smoking with one of the conditions that’s just jumped from seventh to fourth place: dementia."

Tobacco kills more than 15,000 people a year in Australia – and leaves many more disabled or chronically ill. Many of these people would have been in the prime of their productive life, leaving young families and businesses decimated.

All evidence points to the effectiveness, including cost-effectiveness, of increasing taxes on tobacco and increasing investment in other measures to reduce smoking rates. Tax increases help people on low incomes – because the benefit of reduced smoking outweighs any increase in price they might pay.

With Australia’s decline in smoking prevalence threatening to stagnate, we urge the Australian government to take immediate steps to stem tobacco uptake and increase quitting.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of Death, Australia, 2007.

Deaths from Tobacco Related Diseases.

Reference: Tobacco link with Australia's top 7 causes of death, ASH Australian media release, 3/19/2009.