By Andrew Starke

A major health report released yesterday (Sep 1) has called for the price of cigarettes to be lifted to $20 a packet, with alcohol consumers next in line for another round of drastic sin taxes.

The final report of by the Rudd Government’s Preventative Health Taskforce recommends revisiting the minimum drinking age, proposes phasing out alcohol advertising to those under 25 and suggests a minimum price for alcohol be established from 2014.

This would inevitably result in higher prices for beer and cask wine, which do not presently attract high tax rates. 

Both on-and off-premise establishments would be heavily impacted if the 300-page strategy recommendations become law as these would be subject to uniform restrictions on operating hours, the types of licences they could operate under and a demerit system for offenders.

A statement from Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the taskforce was commissioned by the Government to investigate and make evidence based recommendations on ways Australians can improve their health.

“The taskforce’s three key priority areas of obesity, alcohol and tobacco cost our economy over $31 billion every year, in areas such as the health system, crime and lost productivity,” she said.

“The Taskforce has made several findings, set a number of what it describes as ‘ambitious’ targets, and made 35 recommendations and 139 sub-recommendations.”

The Government will consider the taskforce’s recommendations alongside those of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission.

Taskforce chair Rob Moodie said it was the best opportunity in more than a generation to significantly improve the nation’s health.

Lobby group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia immediately called for implementation of the report’s recommendations without delay – including a substantial increase in tobacco tax.

ASH CEO Anne Jones said Australia has fallen behind other countries in tobacco taxation, without a real increase in a decade.

“A tobacco tax increase offers the Rudd Government an ideal opportunity to raise funds for health reform in a way that is popular with the community, and will itself help drive smoking rates down – to the benefit of all Australians, particularly those in greatest need,” she said.

The Preventative Health Taskforce was established in April 2008 to develop the strategy.

It received 397 submissions in response to its October 2008 discussion paper, Australia: the healthiest country by 2020 and held 40 consultations with almost 1,000 stakeholders in capital cities and select regional centres between October 2008 and February 2009.

The views of all consulted parties and all submissions were considered in the development of the National Preventative Health Strategy.

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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