Dec. 29, 2009

Ballarat doctors support smoke price rise plan

SMOKERS could soon be sacrificing a lot more than their lungs if a new proposal by Victorian doctors to nearly double the price of cigarettes is given the go-ahead.
Sick of the enormous strain smoking-related illness places on the state's health system, the Australian Medical Association Victoria has put a world-first plan to Health Minister Daniel Andrews, proposing the price of a packet of smokes be boosted to $20.
AMA Victoria president Dr Harry Hemley said doctors believed hitting smokers in the hip pocket was the only effective way to see a marked decrease in smoking, the state's leading cause of preventable death.
"We think that given all that's been tried, this definitely will be the single most important thing to prevent people from smoking," he said.
"The unit of cost has proven over and over again the most discouraging thing to smokers."
Under the radical new proposal, Dr Hemley said tobacco vendors would have to be licensed to sell cigarettes, a move the AMA Victoria believes would significantly reduce sales to minors, and extra funds gained from cigarette sales would be poured back into the hospital system.
It would raise the cost of smokes by 10 cents a cigarette in July 2010, 15 cents in 2011 and another 20 cents in July 2012. 
Dr Hemley said though AMA Victoria was not of the opinion it would drastically increase the numbers of smokers giving up, it would go a long way to stopping people taking up the highly addictive habit in the first place.
"Minors would be the ones most effected by the transaction levy, making them less likely to buy," he said.
"We want a new generation who don't smoke.
"The tobacco transaction levy would net the Government $3 billion over four years, which would more than fix a lot of problems with the state budget and the burden of disease associated with smoking."
Ballarat and District Division of General Practice chief executive officer Andrew McPherson said most doctors would welcome an push to cut smoking rates.