• April 21, 2024

Australia taxing the poor

poor photo
Photo by M.J.H. photography

Tobacco tax increases in Australia that will see a pack of cigarettes retailing for A$40 might discourage smoking, but will end up having unintended consequences for financially poorer smokers, new research has shown.

‘According to our recently-published paper, low-income smokers who continue to smoke will have to spend more of their limited incomes on tobacco, potentially foregoing other household expenses, like food, a story in The Conversation said. ‘Poorer smokers will also be further stigmatised by continuing to smoke.

‘We argue that equity issues need to be considered when implementing tobacco tax increases, and revenue raised by tax hikes need[s] to be earmarked for helping low-income communities where smoking rates remain high.’

The Conversation piece (at https://theconversation.com/tobacco-tax-hikes-are-great-so-long-as-youre-not-a-poor-smoker-75211) goes on to describe how support for tobacco tax increases among public health experts is not universal, and that a report in the UK described how increasing tobacco taxes could increase health inequalities.

It describes too how the tobacco industry had pushed back against tax hikes, arguing that they led to increased smuggling and diverted enforcement efforts away from other crimes. This, and the industry’s argument that tax hikes harmed the poor, had led to the tobacco industry’s gaining non-traditional allies such as labour trade unions and police to campaign against tax increases.

While tobacco tax increases were good for the majority, The Conversation piece pointed out, it was necessary to ensure poor smokers didn’t bear the negative impacts.