Fears tobacco price rises will be a boon for organised crime
PLANNED increases in the cost of tobacco in the next four years will fund organised crime and cause everyday people to buy their cigarettes from criminal gangs, according to the Australian Smokers' Rights Party.
Tobacco prices have risen considerably with a 12.5% jump late last month, and three more 12.5% increases to come by 2017 - leading to a 50% spike in prices.
Australian Smokers' Rights Party organiser Clinton Mead said the government was moving toward "de facto prohibition" by pricing people out of buying cigarettes legally.
He said this was causing people to seek out illegal alternatives to afford their habit.
"Thirteen per cent of cigarette sales are already illegal," Mr Mead said.
"That's funding organised crime by $1 billion a year.
"People who have never committed a crime in their lives are now dealing with organised criminals."
What do you think will be the outcome of more expensive cigarettes?
This poll ended on 21 December 2013.
More people will quit smoking, it will have a positive effect
There will be more thefts of cigarettes or other items by people who can't afford to smoke
It will force more people to buy illegal cigarettes
People will keep smoking and just pay more to do it
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Mr Mead, who said his minor party also had a number of non-smoking members, said his goal wasn't to promote smoking, but to draw attention to the negative effects of sending tobacco underground.
"You only have to look through history to see what prohibition causes," he said.
"People are going to get hurt by this because there's money in organised crime."
Mr Mead said he felt the government hadn't considered the social and criminal implications of the price increases.
"I know that it isn't their intention but there's reckless disregard to the effects these policies have," he said.
"The government says they're trying to protect us but the only thing they'll protect is organised crime.
"It's making their business model work."
While Mr Mead conceded that smokers tend to die earlier than non-smokers, he said it was wrong to assume that smoking-related deaths were in any way more costly to the taxpayer than deaths from natural causes.
"Everyone dies once - whether it's smoking or dementure," he said.
Mr Mead also said the excess from the cost of cigarettes far outweighed the cost of health care needed by smokers.
"Not to encourage smoking, but it's not about public health costs," he said.
Mr Mead speculated that the standard price of a pack of smokes could rise to about $30 once the price rises have all been applied.
"Anyone on a low income is going to go to organised crime," he said.
"There are people shooting each other in the streets over this dirty money."