The McGowan Government is leading the charge across Australia in considering bold new measures to combat the way cigarettes are engineered.
There are growing concerns that it is not only the ingredients in tobacco products that are highly dangerous, but also the way they are manipulated which makes the taste more appealing.
This includes designing filters with special venting and ‘squeeze’ flavour capsules that can be crushed to release flavours that mask the chemical taste.
As a result, young people trying them for the first time can more easily inhale without the harsh taste, and this can lead to quicker addiction and a considerably shorter and unhealthy lifetime of smoking.
Health Minister Roger Cook is planning to raise his concerns with Commonwealth, State and Territory health ministers to investigate whether new laws were needed to control the composition and engineering of cigarettes.
New measures to regulate the ingredients and design of tobacco products are seen as the ‘next step’ in tobacco control and have been identified in key planning strategies including the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018 and the Western Australian Health Promotion Strategic Framework 2017-2021.
Australia has been a world leader in tobacco control measures such as plain packaging, and last year the McGowan Government introduced a raft of laws, including several specifically aimed at reducing tobacco exposure in children.
These include banning the sale of fruit and confectionery-flavoured cigarettes, and packets that can be split into smaller packs of less than 20 cigarettes to appeal to children.
From September this year, retail shop assistants under the age of 18 will not be able to sell tobacco products.
This is part of the McGowan Government’s plan build on its success story in significantly reducing smoking rates in children.
Weekly smoking rates in 12 to 17-year-old school students fell from 21 per cent in 1984 to five per cent in 2017. Over the same period, the proportion who had never smoked increased from 32 to 83 per cent.
As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“While the fall in the number of Western Australian kids and teenagers smoking is very encouraging, we know the tobacco industry is always looking for new ways to get them hooked and make it hard for them to quit.
“I will be raising the issue of the contents and design of tobacco products with my health colleagues in other States to look at what we can do to regulate products.
“Requiring full disclosure of individual cigarette ingredients has been on the national tobacco control agenda in Australia for many years, and merits further consideration.
“We cannot sit back on our laurels while we still have more than 1,500 Western Australians dying each year because they smoked, and we certainly don’t want any new generations of smokers.”