Australian governments have been urged to set a date to ban cigarette retail sales by leading public health researchers. 

As per The Guardian, new research published on Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) showed public appetite for such a move: the research found 1,466 (52.8%) respondents to a Victorian Cancer Council survey agreed with phasing out the sale of cigarettes in places like supermarkets.

In another MJA piece also published today, November 15th, public health researchers insisted that it’s time for governments to do more than just offer tobacco-harm warnings or use plain-packaging laws.

“Cigarettes do not meet modern consumer product safety standards,” the piece states. “It is normal for governments to remove unsafe products such as contaminated food, asbestos, and lead paint from the market.

The successful defence of Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws against international trade disputes demonstrates that governments have the right to introduce tobacco control measures to protect the health of its citizens, even when these measures reduce commercial profits and have an impact on international trade.”

Other countries have been leading the way in prohibiting the sale of cigarettes. The Netherlands has passed laws stopping supermarkets from selling them from 2024 onwards’ New Zealand has proposed their own measures that would significantly reduce the number of tobacco shops and also potentially remove nicotine from cigarettes; Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach in California stopped tobacco sales on January 1st this year.

A spokesperson for the federal Department of Health told The Guardian that evidence pointed to public health strategies focusing on both the supply and demand of tobacco as being the most likely to achieve long-term health goals. Responsibility for the retail sale of tobacco products was also a matter for state territory governments, he said.

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“The government will continue to work with state and territory governments to explore a range of new evidence-based measures to further reduce smoking prevalence having regard to both supply reduction and demand reduction measures,” the spokesperson said.

Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of premature death and disability in Australia, with 1.28 million Aussies estimated to have been killed by its use between 1960 and 2020.

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Check out this guide to how cigarettes affect the body: