It's not pretty
WHILE the Federal Government's proposed changes to cigarette packaging laws continue to be a divisive topic in Canberra, the issue is also causing local debate.
The proposed changes would require all cigarette packaging to be coloured a uniform olive green colour, have large graphic warnings, no embossing and only plain text to indicate the brand, strength and quantity of the cigarettes inside.
According to the Government, the changes which would be a world-first if adopted, were a bid to curb smoking rates by making the product's packaging less attractive to consumers.
The topic has proved a thorny one though. The Federal Opposition is yet to take an official stance with many of its members waiting for evidence to support the plan's potential effectiveness to be brought to the table.
However, a number of supporters of the plan within the Opposition's ranks have threatened to cross the floor should the Coalition decide not to support it.
The plan wasn't only causing healthy debate nationally. Opinions are equally divided in the Clarence Valley.
Dr Paul Fowler of the Southside Doctors Surgery, South Grafton, said he believed the Government's proposal had merits.
“My personal opinion is that I agree with any measures that reduce smoking,” Dr Fowler said.
“With plain packaging, there's some evidence that suggests that it can reduce the attraction of smoking for people who are taking it up.”
As a GP, Dr Fowler said he came face-to-face with the effects of smoking every day and said it was a major problem that needed to be tackled sooner rather than later.
“In medical terms, smoking is associated with a whole range of diseases from coronary artery disease, cancers of various types, chronic airways disease, so it's a huge public health problem,” he said.
Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker said he was yet to be convinced about the Government's plan.
“Certainly my concern is the effectiveness of plain packaging, given that there are already a range of measures in place such as the health warnings and the graphic photos and the fact that the packs are actually concealed from customer's view by those cupboards that the retailers all had to put in,” he said.
“So the question arises what the effectiveness of this packaging would be, or is it just the Government being seen to be doing something about smoking rather than looking at a measure that's actually going to have an impact.
“It'd be totally different if the packs were actually on display, the packaging would assume a much greater role as a potential media to reduce smoking.
“So I want to see the evidence of the effectiveness of the plain packaging and how it's all going to work.”
Mr Hartsuyker said, like many Members of the Federal Opposition, he would carefully review the proposed legislation when it was revealed before he decided on his final position.
If passed through parliament, the changes would come into effect from July 1 next year.