Many of these changes are government regulations, taken against the wishes of the tobacco companies and tobacco retailers and reflect a government commitment to improve the health of the population. Since 1975, Australia’s population has roughly doubled, yet the volume of tobacco consumed has plummeted by more than 65 per cent.
All of this goes to show that well crafted government regulation can achieve desired outcomes.
Let’s think of a few other issues where government regulation might work.
Obesity could easily be reduced if there was a tax on sugar, a massive awareness campaign highlighting healthy lifestyle choices, restrictions in junk food advertising and even plain packaging on food products that make people fatter. This mix of policies would work.
In a different area, the number of road death have been reduced over the past few decades with drink and drug driving laws, speed cameras, greater enforcement of speed limits, seat belts, higher fines and awareness campaigns such as stop, revive, survive all impacting.
Then there is climate change.
A price on carbon would see carbon emissions fall, and government funding of renewables would accelerate the path to lower carbon emissions as wind and solar accounted for an increased share of electricity output. It is only political will or the lack thereof that is keeping Australia’s per capita carbon output among the highest in the world. Sometimes, the general population is annoyed at the level of government intervention in the economy and their day to day lives. Extra costs, red tape and compliance issues are indeed annoying when the government implements policy wide-reaching regulatory changes.
But sometimes the government gets the policy setting right.
The strategy to reduce and hopefully eliminate smoking is one of those times. There should be consideration to using a similar approach to target other areas which will improve living standards.