Australian public health experts are making new efforts to curb the use of tobacco products, comparing its adverse effects on health to that of asbestos and lead paint.
Australia has led the world on tobacco control, with plain packaging laws introduced in 2012, higher taxes and graphic public health warnings.
But campaigners say those steps are not enough to stop people from smoking. Public health experts want to remove cigarettes from supermarket and convenience store shelves.
Fourteen percent of Australians smoke, according to the government’s latest figures. In 1977, 37% of Australians smoked. In an article published Monday in The Medical Journal of Australia, researchers said tobacco use was declining too slowly.
Coral Gartner is the director of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Centre of Research Excellence on Achieving the Tobacco Endgame, a government body.
She says the availability of tobacco in stores and supermarkets needs to be further restricted.
“You know, it has been a very slow road that we have traveled to get to this point. We are at the point now where we think, you know, it is time to start thinking about how long is it really suitable to be just selling this product in a general retail environment. We are not talking about making it an illicit product or banning smoking as such,” Gartner said.
Researchers have said that studies in Australia, England, Canada, and Hong Kong have shown that half of all adults want tobacco sales to be phased out. In April, the New Zealand government proposed several new measures that would sharply reduce the number of tobacco retail outlets.
Government health experts have said that smoking was the leading cause of preventable diseases and death in Australia.
The government said it would continue “to explore a range of new evidence-based measures” to further cut tobacco consumption.