A study has examined how radical ideas on how to stop smoking have become official government policy in seven different countries. 

The study led by Menzies’ Associate Professor Marita Hefler looks at cases of ‘policy audacity’ which refers to the process of trying to cut tobacco use, by making radical ideas seem possible.

Once an idea is accepted and then supported within a community, it sets off a ‘domino’ effect, where precedents in one jurisdiction are followed by others. 

The paper examines each ‘policy audacity’ case and then identifies and compares the factors that facilitated the transformation from idea to radical concept to official government policy.  

The case studies include:

  • A ban on tobacco industry social responsibility programs in Mauritius
  • Aotearoa New Zealand’s 2010 Māori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into the tobacco industry, and the recent draft action plan for a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025
  • Australia’s world-leading tobacco plain packaging legislation
  • Local city council ordinances in the Philippines and USA to end all tobacco sales, and 
  • A new policy in the Netherlands to end tobacco sales in supermarkets. 

The researchers found that each idea in each jurisdiction appeared to be ‘the next logical step’ for existing tobacco control measures. 

Importantly, the new ideas built on strong public support for action to reduce smoking, as well as action against the tobacco industry. 

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is the world’s only global health treaty, encourages governments to go beyond the minimum measures it specifies. 

The study found that governments should continue to innovate in tobacco control policy. 

In Australia, it is nearly 10 years since plain packaging was introduced, and while Australia has traditionally been a global leader in tobacco control, smoking remains a leading cause of preventable illness and premature death. 

The current Australian Preventive Health Strategy aims to reduce the adult smoking rate to 5 per cent by 2030, but it doesn’t include details on how this can be achieved.  

A/Prof Hefler said now is the time for Australian governments to consider new boundary-pushing policies to reduce smoking.

“One area in which Australia could again become a world leader is by reducing the retail availability of cigarettes, with the aim to phase out sales entirely from most stores. Surveys show there is public support for ending most retail tobacco sales within 10 years,” A/Prof Hefler said.

The study can be read here: https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/31/2/328