New Australian smoking laws aimed at small businesses

New Australian plain cigarette packs

Note: we didn't want these new packs to be freely visible on the site. If you really want to see what they look like, click on the picture below (not for the faint-hearted).

Recent “health” legislation passed in Australia will harm small cigar retailers but is unlikely to actually curb cigar smoking or protect the health of cigar smokers. The new laws — similar to those being considered by the FDA in the US right now — will require that all tobacco products sold in the country be packaged drably without style or flair and include large, clear health warnings on their labels. This will include cigars as well as cigarettes — even though cigar smoking is a completely different industry.

The Australian government believes (as the FDA in America does) that this will prevent youthful smokers from purchasing cigars, and that it will reduce the amount of smoking which takes place in Australia. This is a fallacy for more reason than one. For starters, the average cigar smoker is male, age 35 and older. Youthful smokers usually turn to cigarettes and not cigars. The other reason that applying the legislation to cigars won’t reduce smoking is that cigar smokers don’t smoke the same way and for the same reasons as cigarette smokers.

Smokers of premium cigars are connoisseurs—they don’t smoke out of habit, they smoke instead to enjoy a hand-made product which has been artfully crafted for a unique experience (the packaging is part of this experience). Premium cigars aren’t cheap, and they are enjoyed slowly at a leisurely pace. While the Australian legislation may curb cigarette smoking (or not), it is unlikely to curb cigar smoking, since cigar smokers will simply turn to online retailers for their cigars. One Brisbane cigar retailer, Rob Ayala (owner of Cigar Czar), took a poll of his customers and found out that 58% of them would simply buy their cigars online instead of from him. Only 1.3% said they’d cut back on smoking. "No one who purchases premium cigars at $15-$50 ($300-$1,250 a box), will purchase plain-packaged, plain-banded cigars when they have so many options internationally," said Ayala.

"We must challenge perceptions that cigars are in any way more glamorous, or a less harmful alternative, to cigarettes," said Health Minister Tanya Plibersek.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that cigars aren’t as unhealthy as cigarettes in the most basic sense (at least I can't find any - got a reference?), but the differing habits of cigar smokers typically are less unhealthy, starting with the fact that cigar smoke is not meant to be inhaled. Here is scientific evidence - thanks Cameron! Furthermore, cigar smokers don’t burn through packs of cigars each day. Many treat themselves to just one nice premium cigar every few days, or even just once a week. Cigars cost a lot more, and are meant to be enjoyed in the moment—not burned through rapidly and mindlessly. The new legislation ignores this fact and is punishing premium cigar smokers and retailers without regard to these facts — and all that will do is harm small businesses in Australia and cut into the rights of the consumer.

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7 Comments on “New Australian smoking laws aimed at small businesses”

  1. Cameron Reilly says:

    There is *absolutely* scientific evidence that smoking cigars isn’t as bad for you as cigarettes. And both the US gov and the Australian gov know about it – they both link to the report from their respective official health.gov sites. See my blog post here for details: http://perdomocigars.com.au/blog/cigars-and-your-health/

  2. Hdownunder says:

    Rob Ayala is absolutely right the biggest problem in Oz is teenagers both female and male taking up cigarette smoking because they think it’s cool(???) or through peer pressure or their parents are habitual cigarette smokers most if not all having tried unsuccessfully to give up! This has NOTHING to do with cigar smokers and before they lump us in with those who overload the already stretched health system because of their inability to quit cigarettes they should survey those who attend health services and would find that cigar smokers would hardly rate a mention! It’s like comparing alcoholics with those who enjoy a glass of wine with there dinner!

  3. CptBluebear says:

    @Hdownunder: you’re doing the anti-smoking industry’s work for them, mate. You’re reinforcing the stereotype they’ve worked so hard to establish. If we don’t hang together, they’ll hang us individually.

    If the Oz government’s tax grab* has taught us one thing it’s that the big tobacco companies will go along with anything as long as it doesn’t hurt their profits. They will cheerfully screw their customers over without a second thought. I suspect there is a certain amount of support for the idea of plain packaging at the corporate level because it removes any perceived stigma associated with the cheaper brands. After all, they are all owned by three companies (one of whom is an artificial creation anyway). Don’t expect them to fight this.

    In fact, if you look back at the anti-smoking measures enacted in this country, they have all benefited the bottom lines of our “big three” tobacco companies and mass market stores at the expense of the little guys. It’s enough to make you suspect BAM, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris are running the show.

    Local tobacco sellers haven’t helped their own cause by raising their margins under cover of the tax increase. I’ve some sympathy: no one wants the Tax Office to make more money on their sales than they do, but that was just taking the piss. Cohiba Siglo IVs (to pick a recent example I know well) I can get for around $35 each locally (I just checked online and Alexander’s in Sydney are asking $45 each!). I buy them OS for $12 and even when I get stung for duty (for the benefit of non-Oz readers it’s currently around $450 a kilo / two pounds) it’s only $8 or so a stick. Local retailers are screwed, I’m afraid. I’ll be sorry to see them go, but that sort of price gouging leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth. Anyway, the best of them here closed up ten years ago.

    Smokers do not “overload an already stretched health system” contrary to the anti-smoking propaganda currently in circulation. That’s just more smoke and mirrors to cover the mismanagement of public health funding by successive governments. You might as well claim that falling off ladders is overloading the system. I suspect lack of fitness and hypochondria are MUCH larger factors.

    So bah, humbug (and much worse) to the lot of them – I’ll keep buying from OS. The local industry has shown no loyalty to me, they’ll get none in return.

    Ticked off in Adelaide,

    Cpt Blue Bear

    * For the benefit of anyone who thinks it’s anything to do with public health: I was in a focus group discussing the proposed (although not in public) tax increase**, in particular they were trying to find out what the threshold was where we’d stop buying cigarettes. Surprise, surprise, when the price rise came it was just short of what we’d discussed. They weren’t interested in cutting the number of smokers, just in how high they could push the tobacco tax.

    ** Second interesting point: who commissioned the research? Not the federal government, but British American Tobacco…

  4. Hdownunder says:

    Good morning Cpt Blue Bear(guess you don’t follow Norwood or it would be Cpt Red Bear) enjoyed your comments and the issue for me was comparing those of us who enjoy a cigar 3 or 4 times a week with those friends of mine who smoke 30+ cigarettes a day. As to the lack of government funding and mismanagement of the health system couldn’t agree more but with a nurse for a daughter and my wife working in community care I get first hand knowledge of the number of health patients with cigarette smoking related illness and it’s a lot more than fall off ladders mate! Incidentially like you I buy my cigars OS and as you say even with the $430+ a kilo duty and gst it still far cheaper. Cheers,Hdownunder.

  5. CptBluebear says:

    Hi Hdownunder,

    actually Norwood wood be CptRedAndBluebear or CptRedLegsbear. Either of which are far too much of a mouthful and make even less sense than CptBluebear.

    While I agree with your point that a pack-a-day cigarette smoker and 3-or-4 a week cigar smoker are very different animals, by trying to distance us from them we weaken our position. About 20% of the population smoke (that’s been stable for some time, down from a peak in the early 80s to similar levels to the 1950s) and we are a tiny minority of that. Alone we can be easily ignored and ridden roughshod over. It’s classic divide and conquer tactics and it’s stock in trade for the anti-smoking industry.

    Not dissing your wife and daughter, but what are they counting as “smoking related”? These days anyone coughs and it’s intermediately labelled smoking related. Twenty years ago it was handing anyone who breathed hard an asthma puffer (true story: an ex spent seven years on one of those things before being diagnosed with a lung infection.) I’m afraid I simply don’t believe the numbers bandied about because of this. Is that person in casualty with breathing difficulties because he’s spent his whole life on the couch in front of the TV eating crap and never getting any exercise or because he smoked a cigarette ten years ago? Well, for the sake of compiling tobacco statistics, it’s the latter. The guys who produced the number printed on every fag packet recently admitted that they’d counted every case of pneumonia as “smoking related”.

    But no matter how you count it, it doesn’t stack up to the thirty-odd thousand people who die every year in this country due to medical malpractice or misdiagnosis. I wonder how many of them end up in the “smoking related” category?

    Anyway, good to meet a fellow Aussie on here,

    Ctp Bluebear, over and out

  6. As i see it, im both a cigar smoker & a cigarette smoker. i have never inhaled cigar smoke only puffing. but i have been inhaling while smoking cigarettes. but recenetly i stopped inhaling when smoking cigarettes too, its a bit easier than to stop completely.
    if all cigarette smokers did that, the risks would be minimized. i smoke for taste so i choose to puff my smokes

  7. Here is more evidence about the effects of cigars vs. cigarettes from the British Medical Journal.

    http://www.bmj.com/content/314/7098/1860#alternate

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