Day two of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership has seen another Coalition split in the Senate – this time over plain packaging laws and tobacco excise.
Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath today denounced the recent hike in the tobacco excise, legislated by Labor but enacted by the Coalition as “cover for fiscal recklessness”.
Embarrassingly he also denounced Labor’s plain packaging laws, which the Coalition supported, as “nanny state laws”.
“it is an attack on free speech and the intellectual property rights of law abiding business and should be condemned”.
Qld LNP Senator James McGrath, Senate, 16 September 2015
Senator McGrath then quoted at length from discredited reports commissioned by the tobacco industry to argue plain packaging had failed.
The facts are Labor’s world leading plain packaging laws have been an undisputed success, sending tobacco consumption plunging to yet another record low.
The latest ABS National Accounts figures show tobacco consumption has fallen 19.6 per cent in the almost three years since Labor’s plain packaging laws came into effect.
That is why Britain and Ireland are following Australia’s lead and have voted to introduce plain packaging from May next year with the entire European Union expected to soon follow.
Earlier this year one of the world’s most respected medical journals declared Labor’s plain packaging laws to be “a casebook example of effective tobacco control.”
“The evidence suggests that plain packaging is severely restricting the ability of the pack to communicate and create appeal with young people and adults.”
“Death of a Salesman” – British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control
The BMJ has scathingly dismissed the tobacco-funded campaigns quoted by Senator McGrath to undermine Labor’s laws.
“Did it lower prices for licit tobacco or increase the use of illicit tobacco, both of which might be expected to encourage smoking? There is no evidence for either effect.
“Plain packaging is delivering on its hypothetical promise, and the potential downsides, much vaunted by its opponents, are not materialising.”
The Assistant Minister for Health, whose party continues to accept tobacco donations, should explain to her colleague that plain packaging is actually a crucial issue of public health that is helping to save thousands of lives.
Each year smoking kills 15,000 people in Australia. The economic and social cost of smoking is estimated at $31.5 billion a year.
Instead of parroting tobacco industry propaganda, Senator McGrath should stick with the facts.