Stricter tobacco controls around the world would help alleviate poverty and health inequality, says QUT Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Matthew Rimmer.
He said World No Tobacco Day (May 31) highlighted the damaging effect the tobacco industry has on the health and wellbeing of billions of people in poor countries.
“The World Health Organisation estimates 80 per cent of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low or middle-income countries,” Professor Rimmer said.
“Tobacco exacerbates poverty as the poorest people spend less on essentials such as food, education and healthcare.
“It is grown where labour is cheap and results in global deforestation of between 2 and 4 per cent, takes up valuable arable land, while producing two million tonnes of solid waste every year.
“That’s why the theme of World No Tobacco Day is ‘Tobacco – a Threat to Development’.
“Legal avenues to a tobacco-free world have taken many tacks and WHO has put it firmly on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agenda with a call for universal higher taxes to stem the tobacco industry’s threat to development and contribution to poverty.”
Professor Rimmer has charted the inexorable demise of tobacco through recent successful legal challenges to tobacco companies’ opposition to plain packaging.
“Australia is a world leader in tobacco control which has provided a blueprint for other countries to tackle the global tobacco epidemic,” he said.
“Australia has defended its public policy innovation of plain packaging of tobacco products in the courts, in an international investment tribunal and a World Trade Organization trade arbitration successfully.
“Australia has also raised taxes on tobacco products and introduced plain packaging of tobacco products.
“It has worked to close the healthcare gap for Indigenous communities by focusing on tobacco control.
“Initiatives to promote Tobacco Free Futures will promote sustainable development, public health, and economic prosperity in Australia, the region, and the world.
“Higher tobacco taxes around the world would help the environment be a lot healthier and fund development in the poor countries where tobacco use hits hardest.”
If the world quitted its tobacco addiction we would have not just cleaner air but a reduction in pesticides and fertilisers used on the 4.3 million hectares used to grow the deadly crop, Professsor Rimmer said.
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