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Public support for policies to phase out the retail sale of cigarettes in Australia: results from a nationally representative survey

Abstract

Background There is growing international interest in a goal once considered unthinkable: phasing out the retail sales of smoked tobacco products. In this study, we examined public support for phasing out sales and specific measures for moving towards a phase-out among a nationally representative sample of Australian adults.

Methods In December 2019, we used a probability-based online panel, Life in Australia™, to survey n=1939 Australian adults (n=1874 included in analyses due to missing data).

Results Almost two-thirds of respondents thought it would be ‘a good thing’ if there came a time when it was no longer legal to sell cigarettes in shops in Australia and only 16.7% thought it would be ‘a bad thing’. After the concept of a phase-out was defined as removing a product from the Australian market over a set period, such as 5 years, but still allowing purchases online from overseas companies, 50.7% indicated support for such a phase-out and 61.8% thought it should happen within 10 years. Support was greater for specific measures such as licensing tobacco retailers (75.3%) and restricting sales to places children cannot enter (76.3%). Support tended to be consistent across demographic subgroups but was stronger among never and former smokers than among current smokers.

Conclusions There has been little public discussion in Australia about the goal of 1 day phasing out the retail sale of cigarettes. It is notable that such policies are reasonably well supported by the Australian public, with only minority opposition.

  • public opinion
  • end game
  • public policy

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