By Pippa Starr
30 August 2021
On several fronts, Australia is in for some tough times in the future.
How Australians approach issues like climate change, disease, and the ongoing economic burdens that face every ordinary Australian taxpayer will require combined efforts like no other time in history.
As a country once regarded as the clever country, it’s past time to become clever again! Have Australian leaders got a grand plan?
In the last two years Australian’s have experienced more economic despair than what ever seemed possible. Australia is in dire need of great leadership who can steer the economy back into a direction where it can make the greatest comeback ever.
Does Australia currently have the leadership ability in their government to make that comeback possible?
Prior to the beginning of the current Covid19 pandemic driven economic crisis, the overconfident Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was spruiking to the world that we are “back in the black and Australia is back on track”.
That was in April 2019. From an economic perspective his forecasts were optimistic, but no budget could have ever had a contingency plan for what Australia didn’t see coming, just a few weeks later.
More than ever, Australia cannot afford to bleed any further as it faces a previously unimaginable trillion-dollar debt, it’s a time to make smart choices.
There is only so much Australian’s can control when in comes to dealing with and being amongst a world in a pandemic crisis, but there are various levers the government can control to help get Australia back on track.
However, there is a worsening pandemic right now that killed more than 23 times more Australians than Covid19 in 2020. It is an issue that is being treated as if our economy is in remission from the economic burdens that come with it. Along with it is the greatest ever cause of preventable death and disease.
According to the National Drug Research Institute in 2019 at Curtain University, smoking currently burdens the Australian economy around $136.9 billion dollars per year.
It’s hardly an issue that is going to help Australia claw its way back from what seems like economic abyss, or could it?
Smoking seems to be one of those issues that most don't care about a lot, yet we should!
It seems to be the consensus of most people, that if you smoke you are just a bloody idiot, with very little, if any consideration to how it effects Australia’s economy.
Australia sees daily smoking rates that indicate 11.6% of the population still endure with the deadly habit. This rate discounts those who smoke less than 100 cigarettes per year, otherwise the smoking rate would be 14%.
A leak from an anonymous source last week, revealed to me that the Australian Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) are celebrating their fine efforts over the last 3 years of enforcing strict measures that saw record seizures of more than enough tobacco to supply around 10% of current average daily Australian smokers.
How much illicit tobacco is actually flooding through past the ITTF and ABF (Australian Border Force)?
The ITTF also found and destroyed 118 tonnes of locally grown illicit tobacco in the last 3 years alone. This fast-growing black market driven by Australia having the highest cigarette prices in the world should have people concerned, as it feeds billions of dollars into crime and terrorist syndicates via a leaking Australian economy.
This makes it near impossible to measure an actual smoking rate in Australia!
While the AIHW government figures say one thing, how is it possible to accurately quantify what the real smoking rate is when people aren’t declaring tobacco products for legal sale in mass quantity?
A few years ago, KPMG estimated black market tobacco sales were at around 20% of all total tobacco sold in Australia, since then all indicators point to a lot further growth in the Australian illicit tobacco black market which fails to have the minimum of the $1576.57 /KG of import duties applied.
What does all this mean for real smoking rates?
It’s not only impossible to quantify but it appears that it is more than likely that Australia’s real smoking rates are a hell of a lot worse than what was previously thought.
Therefore, the burden to the Australian economy is more than likely a hell of a lot worse than first thought. With ongoing price hikes in legal tobacco products, it appears unlikely that the demand for further black-market tobacco market growth will slow any time soon.
The one promising trend over recent years is the increasing adult use of nicotine vaping products by Australians . This currently affordable option is now seeing more than 520000 Australians transition onto a pathway off deadly combustible tobacco products.
While vaping products are not marketed as 100% safe, they are the only way that many Australians have been able to find a pathway off the deadly smokes.
According to the same college that called out the harms of smoking in a damming report in 1962, the Royal College Of Physicians stated in 2016 that nicotine vaping products are at least 95% safer than smoking products.
Vaping products are at front and centre in supporting smokers to quit across the UK, hence seeing smoking rate declines plummeting rapidly faster than Australia over the last 6 years.
From October 2021, Australia will be the first country in the world to class nicotine for vaping products as a medicine and therefore will require a prescription to access.
On the surface that sounds like a great plan.
Many public health advocates are rejoicing this move to help keep vaping products out of the hands of minors.
There are some very important things to consider though:
- The rate of use among young teens 14-17 is around 1.8% and is mostly experimental.
- Current laws to deter teen nicotine use are not being effectively applied.
- Smokers have greater accessibility to combustible tobacco products that kill 21000 people in Australia every year than vaping products that have seen ZERO deaths in 18 years.
- With a month to go till the new prescription-based laws are in place, very few doctors seem aware or are supportive of the changes.
- The changes include some extremely non-risk proportionate laws applied that include $220000 border fines if the paperwork isn’t done right or the chemical composition of the nicotine containing products don’t meet a string of requirements that only a very small percentage of vapers could possibly be aware of.
As it stands, most of the 520000 nicotine vaping Australians, could be bankrupted by such a fine after October, regardless of knowing what the new laws are or not.
This is our new Australia.
As a nation we are oblivious to law changes like this that seem to pass through at the blink of an eye as many Australians disengage themselves from a democracy that now more than ever seems to many as a failing one on many levels.
If this wasn’t a stressful enough situation for those who have finally found a pathway off smoking, there appears to be a whole lot more pain on the horizon for Australians who can’t quit via any other of the less effective quit methods.
On August 5, 2021, a new bill snuck through parliament and is now before the Australian senate, which when passed could see the same $1576.57Kg import duties applied to Tobacco products also applied to all Vaping products.
All vaping products like eLiquid and devices appear to have been classed as “manufactured tobacco substitutes” under a new legislation set to be implemented by January 2022.
If the law is applied as it reads, regardless of nicotine content (even zero mg), it would mean that not only all vaping eLiquids would be subject to the same duty as tobacco products but also vaping devices/e-cigarettes would be subjected as well.
What would that mean for the average bottle of 60ml eLiquid (90g):
- Cost $30
- Freight $15
- Duty $141.89
At that sort of money, it would be cheaper to smoke!
Then there’s the vaping devices. An average starter kit that now costs around $100, with duties applied could cost the Australian vaping consumer well over $500.
Hardly a way to deter smokers from quitting via the world’s most popular and at least 70% effective quit method, is it?
However, it could solve the national debt crisis that Australia is faced with, that is if people will pay out that sort of money rather than smoke.
The details of this bill and the definitions are currently being investigated, but on the surface it doesn’t to look great whichever way you look at it for the 520000 Australians who are currently vapers.
It looks even worse for the millions of Australians who still smoke, most will have to endure a painful premature death.
Is there any good that can come of such an action from a government that seems to want to keep relying on an economy on the back of a deadly habit?
Between all the border fines and extra duties applied to those who have quit smoking via vaping it could be those people that might just get the Australian economy back on track!
Is that ethical though?
(MADE APPARENT AFTER PUBLISHING AT 3PM)
The bill passed on 28 August 2021
Another category 2404.12 was created.
Items Intended to assist tobacco use cessation are free from the duties mentioned above.
For any other reason only 5% of the $1576.57Kg import duties will apply.
Maybe vapers may not be this lucky next time. Best to advocate, and write/call to your MPs today to avoid any further scares.