‘No plan’ to force smokers to be licensed


Minister says plain packaging fight is hard enough as it is / AFP
Source: AFP

HEALTH Minister Nicola Roxon has dismissed the idea of forcing smokers to apply for a licence to light up before eventually banning smoking altogether.

Anti-smoking campaigners have told Fairfax newspapers that a licensing scheme could pave the way for a smoking ban within 10 to 15 years.

But Ms Roxon said the government has no such plans.  “It’s not part of our policy,” she told Network Ten.

“I certainly understand why public health advocates want to keep pushing the boundaries but we are already trying to break new ground.”

The Gillard government wants to introduce world-first plain packaging for cigarettes from mid-2012.

Ms Roxon said Labor had a big fight on its hands on that front alone.  She denied a smoking ban was the logical conclusion of government anti-smoking policies.

“If tobacco were a brand new product today seeking to come onto the market… it wouldn’t be a legal product,” she said.

“But the truth is it’s been a legal product for many, many years.”

The Health Minister said the government was therefore focused on cracking down on big tobacco’s last remaining advertising method – branded packs.

Ms Roxon also took aim at Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for sitting on the fence regarding the plain packaging push.

Mr Abbott was acting as the parliamentary arm of the industry, she said.

“He’s finding it very difficult to say no to big tobacco and the question has to be if the millions of dollars of donations are affecting is judgment,” Ms Roxon said.

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