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July 31st, 2016:

Tripling of tobacco sellers’ licence fee in Tasmania reasonable, retailers say

A planned tripling of the tobacco sellers licence fee in Tasmania is a “reasonable compromise”, a retail industry group says.

On Saturday, the Tasmanian Government detailed its $6.4 million Healthy Tasmania plan, which includes raising the licence fee to $731 next year and then about $1,100 by January 2018.

The Australian Retailers Association’s executive director, Russell Zimmerman, said retailers would have to factor in increased costs.

“We like to see people live healthy, good lifestyles and we don’t encourage things that would deter that,” he said.

“Having said that we would also say that the tripling of the licence fees will hit small, independent retailers.”

But Mr Zimmerman said increasing the licence fee was a better option compared to the Government’s original plan to increase the minimum smoking age.

“With all the tourism happening in Tasmania we think it would have been very hard to police,” he said.

“This is probably a reasonable compromise.”

Last week, the State Government said it would shelve its controversial plan to lift the legal smoking age from 18 to as high as 25, saying that after consultation it was clear it was not an appropriate course of action.

Funding labelled a joke

Greens party spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff was critical of the $6.4 million Healthy Tasmania plan, labelling the amount a joke.

“It is nothing like the serious investment, the strong plan that the Minister has been talking about for a year now,” she said.

“We’ve got soaring rates of chronic diseases in Tasmania and the Government’s prevention health strategy is a paltry amount of money to deal with what’s ahead of us.”

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Government was already spending $70 million on preventative healthcare in addition to the $6.4 million.

He said $2 million from the Healthy Tasmania plan would be spent on improving student health and wellbeing, including updated drug education programs.

“Alongside the investment of resources education plays such a key role when it comes to cultural and intergenerational change,” he said.

Smokefree Coalition closes its doors

Smokefree Coalition closes its doors with celebration and sadness

The organisation that provided a platform for unity and collaboration in New Zealand tobacco control is no more.

At a Wellington celebration tinged with sadness members of the Smokefree Coalition gathered tonight to commemorate 20 years of achievement in reducing smoking in New Zealand while lamenting the loss of government funding that has forced it to close down operations.

“The Smokefree Coalition helped provide a united voice for the various tobacco control organisations in New Zealand,” said Chair Dr Jan Pearson.

“And it was that unity that made us able to achieve plain packaging; the ban on retail tobacco displays; reduced duty free allowances, smokefree bars, restaurants, workplaces and prisons; and annual tax increases.

“These are all measures that have saved countless lives and helped avoid untold suffering by creating a national environment where smoking is no longer cool or even normal – and making it much harder for tobacco companies to convince New Zealanders and their children that it is.”

The Smokefree Coalition is also willing to take much of the credit for the Government’s commitment to becoming a smokefree nation by 2025.

“It was our original Vision 2020 document, produced with the help of our members, that got the ball rolling for that commitment and it was our Smokefree Roadmap 2025 that laid out the pathway to achieve it,” Dr Pearson said.

The Government announced last year it would cease all existing contracts in tobacco control and the Smokefree Coalition contract was not renewed under the new funding strategy. Dr Pearson does not believe this was the right decision but says it is time to pass the mantle to the organisations that remain and wish them well.

“There is still much to be done in New Zealand tobacco control including better support for people to quit, more services for Maori and Pasifika and better policing of retailers – too many of whom are still willing to sell to minors who subsequently become addicted.”

Dr Pearson said the sector relied heavily on the energetic leadership of Dr Prudence Stone and said she would be sadly missed.

“Dr Stone will start her new role as Children’s Rights Advocate for UNICEF on Monday 1 August, and we hope there is room in the new position for her to remain a champion for the prevention of smoking uptake among children.

“She has been tireless in smokefree cars advocacy, which is absolutely a children’s rights issue. The public support it overwhelmingly so its only barrier is lack of political will and leadership. I am sure she will continue to remind our politicians about this and the many other rights to good health children have.”

Tobacco tax blazes to 90 percent, blank packs with health warning

A proposal to raise taxes on import of tobacco to 90 percent from the existing 72 percent will be taken up by the Cabinet tomorrow. The Cabinet paper will be submitted jointly by President Maithripala Sirisena and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne. Dr. Senaratne said the additional revenue would be used to offset losses resulting from the suspension of the Value Added Taxes on some private health services and to meet part of the expenditure to treat patients affected by smoking-related illnesses. An estimated 20,000 tobacco-related deaths are reported annually, according to the Health Ministry.

The Minister said another Cabinet proposal would be introduced for the health warning to remain on the cigarette packet while no advertising would be allowed except for a small brand name. Dr. Senaratne said Sri Lanka would be the first South Asian country to have such cigarette packets.

Govt. to cut ties with alcohol industry; sponsorships, CSR projects to be stopped

A national alcohol control policy intended to cut direct or indirect ties between the alcohol industry and both government and non-governments sectors is to be introduced soon.

Abolishing of the duty free import and sale of alcohol products is also among the far reaching changes advocated by the national policy which seeks to cut down the high prevalence of alcoholism in the country and reduce the social economic problems associated with it. The draft has been gazetted.

When implemented, the researchers and funders with direct or indirect links with the alcohol industry or its front-organisations, in the past or present, will be excluded from any initiatives related to this policy.

Also steps will be taken to phase out all Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects by the alcohol industry. This is because such CSR projects allowed access to and influencing of Government and Non-Government sectors.

There will also be a curb on sponsorship or support from the alcohol industry for development or implementation of public health, fiscal, education, trade, a youth, sports and other government policies and programmes. The policy also envisages new legislation and regulations to stop all forms of promotion of alcohol use through locally and internationally produced publications and entertainment programmes including television, dramas and cinema. Directors, translators, sponsors and the media organisations transmitting such programmes would be held liable for violations.

The policy also seeks to improve transparency of alcohol taxation to ensure that the the tax that the government receives from each price increase is made public. The data will also be made publicly accessible with steps taken to ensure that production volumes are not underestimated when computing the taxes due to the Government.

Tax concessions such as Board of Investment (BOI) status are also to be withdrawn for production, distribution and sale of alcohol within Sri Lanka.