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'Nothing will stop people smoking'

THE Federal Government may have declared war on cigarettes but tobacconist Sharon Hunter said there was nothing politicians could do to stop people smoking.

Ms Hunter, the owner of CTC tobacconist in Gympie Market Place, said increased taxes on cigarettes would only cause poverty, with young children the most disadvantaged.

“I see it every day. People come in and buy their smokes first before they buy food,” she said, adding that she was pretty sure plain packaging would not affect cigarette sales.

“No matter what the government does, smokers will continue to smoke.”

Related: Cigarette changes 'will save lives'

The tax on cigarettes was increased by about $2.75 per pack of 30 last night, and tobacco companies will be forced to use plain packaging from July 1, 2012.

New legislation will prohibit logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text on cigarette packets other than the brand and product names on plain packaging, and the State Government has now announced a total ban on displays of smoking and related products at general retailers and tobacconists from mid-2011.

A government statement said the changes would cut tobacco consumption by six per cent and the number of smokers by two to three per cent, which is about 87,000 Australians.

However, national IGA board chairman Mick Daly said the move treated smokers and retailers with contempt.

He said it would undermine retailers and small businesses, while propping up the cigarette black market, which was growing at a “disturbing rate”.

“It’s a lazy policy response being pushed by some health advocates,” he said.

The Heart Foundation welcomed the reform of tobacco laws. The Foundation’s chief executive officer, Cameron Prout, said bringing in plain packaging and increasing taxes were great ways to drive down consumption of cigarettes and save many lives.

“Putting cigarettes out of sight will protect children from tobacco advertising and stop undermining the resolve of smokers who have quit,” he said.

An Imperial Tobacco Australia spokesperson said the move – designed to make cigarettes less appealing to young people – may actually be a bane to public health.

“If tobacco products are available in the same easy-to-copy plain packaging, it makes it much easier for counterfeiters to increase the volume of illicit trade in Australia,” she said.

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