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Plain cigarette packaging: A policy analysis of Australia’s integrated “whole-of-system” model for smoking cessation

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DOI: 10.4236/health.2012.412187    4,252 Downloads   6,324 Views  

ABSTRACT

Introduction: Plain cigarette packaging as a tobacco control measure is to be implemented in Australia on December 1st 2012. There is mounting evidence for its likely impact on smokers and potential smokers. Yet Australia’s integrated model of smoking cessation and the particular role and opportunities it has created for primary healthcare have not yet been subject to policy analysis in leading international journals. This policy analysis paper explores these new Australian policy developments and debates in ways that identify their international relevance to primary healthcare. Policy analysis: There are 57 studies about plain cigarette packaging published since 2002. Of these, 27 looked at the impact of health warnings. These studies support the introduction of plain packaging as a tobacco control measure, by increasing the efficacy of health warnings and reducing misconceptions about cigarettes. However, the Australian tobacco control reforms are not limited to plain cigarette packaging. They include other evidence-based tobacco control measures as part of its primary health care strategy: for example, increasing tobacco excises, a mass media campaign focusing on high-risk and hard-to-reach groups, and a national summit on smoking in prisons. The Australian government has acknowledged the key role of primary health care in health promotion activities, establishing a network of regional primary health care organisations (“medicare locals”) in 2011-2012, and expanding the role of nurses in general practice. These initiatives offer general practice a chance to seize “golden opportunities to intervene with smoking patients”. Conclusions: Whether the combined impact of the Australian government’s recent tobacco control reforms and its previous measures will be sufficient to reduce daily smoking prevalence to 10% or less by 2020, only time will tell. What is more certain is that the Australian experience of plain packaging offers international colleagues in general practice key lessons about the importance of “whole-of-system” approaches, integrating efforts at the local to national levels, to tackle smoking cessation. The achievement of Australia’s political leaders in plain cigarette packaging is an extraordinary testament to political will but there is no room for complacency. Primary healthcare sectors must continue to lobby political leaders around the world to tackle smoking at the system level where the motivations and beliefs about smoking are being shaped, especially among disadvantaged groups with lower health literacy.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Davies, L. and Bell, E. (2012) Plain cigarette packaging: A policy analysis of Australia’s integrated “whole-of-system” model for smoking cessation. Health, 4, 1271-1275. doi: 10.4236/health.2012.412187.

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