Media Release: National ‘Free Smoke Zones’ to protest tobacco tax hike

Media Release: National ‘Free Smoke Zones’ to protest tobacco tax hike

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.


Lara Jeffery
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!

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8 thoughts on “Media Release: National ‘Free Smoke Zones’ to protest tobacco tax hike

  1. Joan Davidson

    Whilst it is the Liberal Government implementing this tax, don’t forget that in fact this is Labors’ tax, brought before the Parliament BEFORE the election. With the dodgy state of the budget inherited by the Liberals, they have to raise revenue in any way possible.

  2. Paz

    I totally agree with almost all the sentiments raised in this article, bar one. It’s not Abbotts black hole. When the Howard government was votes out, they left a healthy surplus in the bank. This black hole was created by the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd/Greens fiasco. Now Abbott has the unenviable task of trying to pay it back.

  3. adinanto

    Aussies spend 17 days a year smoking Outlay $2500 supporting their habit Most will cut other expenses first
    SMOKERS are puffing away an average 17 days a year and burning enough cash to pay for family health insurance or a holiday if they quit.

    A new study has found smokers spend an average of $2500 a year on their habit, although most will cut spending on entertainment, eating out, clothing or accessories before ditching the killer habit because of economic pressure.

    They are also wasting an average 17 days a year each when the time spent puffing their cigarettes is added, or a combined 49.3 million days a year as a nation, the Herald Sun reports.

    After research conducted by Galaxy for Pfizer Australia, Melbourne respiratory specialist Dr Peter Holmes said that if smokers wanted to make it through the economic downturn, quitting would be a good start.

    “It takes a few cents to make a cigarette and they charge about 90c each, and if someone was ripping you off like that with a television or a car you’d be on the phone to Consumer Affairs instantly,” he said.

    “People would rather cut down on going to movies, eating out and buying clothes before choosing to cut back on smoking, and smoking is such a good way to put more money in their wallet – it’s after-tax income.”

    According to the poll of 1100 Australian smokers, Victorians smoke an average of 13.5 cigarettes each day, while Queenslanders puff on 15.4.

    With almost one in five Australians smoking, annual spending on cigarettes is more than $7.4 billion, but only 45 per cent of Victorian smokers said they would cut back in times of financial stress.

    Tom Bialek, 48, of Lara, spends $80 a week on cigarettes but does not have the money to pay for health insurance, which would be his first priority if he quit.

    For Chris Morris, 57, the money saved by quitting would take him around the world.

    “If I didn’t smoke I’d go on a holiday. My girlfriend is going on a boat cruise around Prague, which would be nice to afford,” he said.

    1. Andrew

      Hi, I am a smoker and understand I do get ripped off, but your point of if you were getting that badly ripped off you would not? Did you know a computer cpu is made and costs under 10 cents, but some sell for over $1000, so I guess you don’t have a computer or cellphone? I smoke cause it helps keep me sane, also it helps keep me relaxed as I have had a hard life in some areas that were out of my control. Please use your brain before commenting on things you might not understand, that’s if you can read this without a computer device since you didn’t purchase one or you would’ve been ripped off big time

  4. It was great to see on the news. I voted for Smokers’ Rights Party in the senate, but we never got up in Fremantle. To hear that lying sleazy public-health-funded property investor say “80% of smokers want to stop” was deeply saddening. I heard somene else lie the same in 2009 on the car radio and never saw her mentally troubled face back then.

    Still, it was the best thing that has happened and will happen for me this Christmas, to see on the ABC news that I’m not the only one who believes in fairness and, being an adult, choses to smoke, now at 46, mostly to demonstrate how wrong it is to tax a legal product at 500% of what it costs duty-free.

    After 40 months living overseas in a civilised country where tobacco is taxed fairly, and the deteroration in my health due to poverty since returning to Australia at Easter, I am living (for now) proof that driving disabled pensioners into poverty is a very effective way to kill us slowly, which will not help to raise revenue when I am dead.

  5. mike freedman

    Smokers’ inability to make the tough decisions – and quit smoking, quit complaining!

    1. And yet somehow, hundreds of millions of people across the world have managed to quit smoking. It’s eminently possible. It’s a lack of desire, not ability.

  6. My comment has waited for moderation long enough. Now it understands why you call it Your Choice.

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