Plain packs progressing in South Pacific

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Wahroonga, New South Wales

Australia’s plain package tobacco laws are having the desired effect, with the vast majority of smokers admitting they don’t like the look of their ugly cigarette packs.

Recently I travelled in Asia, Europe, and it comes back to you again how many people are smoking.

News.com.au reports that eight out of ten smokers are turned off by the graphic health warnings featured on the packs. According to the British Medical Journal, the number of users worried about their smoking has also doubled in the two years since the plain packs were introduced.

A recent study by the Cancer Institute meanwhile shows a 78 per cent increase in calls to Quitline.

Pastor Kevin Price, Health Ministries director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific, said church leaders are “delighted” with the results.

“When I started running Stop Smoking programs back in the early 70s, I wouldn’t have dreamt we could have made such progress,” he says.

Despite the success of the plain packaging laws in Australia, Pastor Price said there is still a lot of work to be done in getting the message out to the rest of the world.

“Recently I travelled in Asia, Europe, and it comes back to you again how many people are smoking,” he says.

One country that has followed Australia’s lead is Solomon Islands, which introduced graphic health warnings to its cigarette packs at the start of this year to counter the smoking epidemic plaguing the nation.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 40 per cent of the island nation’s population are current tobacco users. The ABC also reports that approximately 24 per cent of young people—aged 13-15—are practicing smokers.

The change, however, hasn’t come without struggle. The nation’s leaders have been debating and negotiate the issue since 2007, with tobacco manufacturers being accused of interfering in the process.

Dr Chester Kuma, Health Ministries associate director for the South Pacific Division, said it was “great” to see the plain packaging laws finally being implemented in Solomon Islands.

“We hope that this won’t be just something that happens in the Solomons, but it can be something that can happen right across the South Pacific,” he says. “Cigarette smoking rates in the Pacific are some of the highest in the world.”