This Saturday protesters will come together across the nation to ease the pinch for smokers – by handing out free cigarettes.
The ‘Free Smoke Zones’ will be held in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to oppose the Abbott government’s massive tobacco tax hike.
“Christmas is tough on any budget. This massive tax hike couldn’t come at a worse time. We’re trying to make the holiday season a little easier by showing some good will,” said MyChoice Australia director Lara Jeffery.
The tobacco tax was raised by 12.5% on December 1 using an indirect regulation to avoid having to pass a law authorising the increase at the time. The increase is slated to repeat for the next three years, totalling a 50% rise.
The protests follow a successful Free Smoke Zone in Brisbane during the federal election, thanking smokers for their tax contribution and opposing regulations which restrict individual’s legal choice.
“We are not promoting smoking – adults know the risks and can choose whether or not to smoke. We are opposing the ridiculously high taxes and overregulation that is used to punish people for making a legal choice. Tobacco policy sets a dangerous precedent for alcohol, betting, fast food, and other targets of do-gooders,” Ms Jeffery said.
Opponents of the tax say this latest hike will not help smokers, or their health.
“Health department figures show smoking costs healthcare system less than $0.5 billion, but tobacco excise will collect almost $10 billion this year. That’s more than twenty times the cost of tobacco related illnesses, even before this tax hike,” Ms Jeffery said.
“This tax hike is clearly not about health or healthcare, it’s about Tony Abbott’s budget black hole and inability to make the tough decisions.”
Meanwhile KPMG reports that black market tobacco grew to 13.3% of total tobacco use as consumers seek cheaper alternatives. This tax hike is yet another free kick for organized crime.
For some of Australia’s most vulnerable communities, it’s a kick in the teeth. Australians who are indigenous, who struggle with mental illness, come from a lower socioeconomic background, or are recent migrants are more likely to smoke.
MyChoice Australia does not receive donations from the tobacco industry.
Director, MyChoice Australia
0433 008 550
PROTESTS: Saturday 21st, 1pm to 1:30pm sharp [Local time]: Sydney (Pitt St Mall), Brisbane (Queen St & George St), Melbourne (Bourke St Mall), Perth (Murray St Mall)
Facebook event page here!