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Permit Option For Smokers

Sunday Herald Sun – Evonne Barry, Health reporter – June 29, 2008 12:00am

HEALTH Minister Nicola Roxon has warned smokers she is prepared to take radical action to force them to give up.

A smoker’s permit could be among the “innovative options” employed to get Australians to quit.

The permit, which smokers would have to buy annually and display every time they bought cigarettes, has been mooted in Britain.

And Ms Roxon said Australians could face similar measures to cut the national smoking rate.

“They are the types of things that when the (National Preventative Health Taskforce) says, ‘These are the next steps for the comprehensive plan’, that you could take,” she said.

“I think with tobacco, because we have already gone a long way in Australia in terms of regulation of sale and advertising, there will probably be innovative options like that coming forward.”

Ms Roxon said while cutting binge drinking and obesity rates were high on her agenda, curbing smoking demanded the most drastic action. “With alcohol and obesity… the messages are more subtle because there are of course safe amounts of sweet foods and fatty foods you can eat.

“But with tobacco, it’s a pretty clear message – none of it is safe. So I’m looking forward to considering all of those options and I think they will go from the quite small, individual proposals for personal behaviour to what we need to do across the country.”

Under Britain’s permit proposal, smokers would have to renew their permit every year and display it when buying cigarettes. Revenue raised from the licences would be pumped back into the public health system.

Quit executive director Fiona Sharkie said plain packaging was at the top of her wish list for government reform on smoking.

She said the tobacco industry should be forced to remove all colours and logos from its products.

“We want the punishment being put on to the tobacco industry because they are the ones that are getting smokers addicted,” Ms Sharkie said.

Tuesday marks a year since smoking was banned in Victoria’s 7000 pubs, clubs, gaming rooms and cigar bars.

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