It’s getting harder and harder to catch a smoke break around the world. Countries like Singapore, Israel, Australia, and the Netherlands have initiated smoking bans in public places such as restaurants, hotels, and metro-stations to improve public health conditions and air quality. Since 2008, Australia has held the highest cigarette prices in the world with a pack costing $20.95, almost three times the cost in the United States ($7.20) and 22.5 times Pakistan ($0.93). Although most tobacco-banning campaigns are in favor of healthier lifestyles, high cigarette taxes might be leveraged by Australia’s government to exploit smokers.
In 2018, cigarette prices raised from $0.71 to $0.80 per stick as tobacco tax climbed from 66% to 69% per box. Experts at the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association believe that although high taxing is an effective strategy for public health, it can have debilitating effects on populations of low income. These are consumers who are addicted smokers who will smoke regardless of the circumstance. Cigarette imports continue to flow into the country, delivering $12.5 billion to the government’s treasuries every year as low-income and marginalized citizens suffer.
Unsurprisingly, there was no significant change in the amount of smokers from 2013 to 2016, and that number increased in 2017 despite the hike in price. The solution to improving public health standards while avoiding exploiting addicted, low-income smokers lies in an alternative Australia has banned altogether: e-cigarettes. Nicotine alternatives such as vaporizers are 95% less harmful, significantly cheaper, and are more publicly acceptable.