Albanian government to raise tobacco tax by 5% a year to make smoking “more unattractive”

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The Albanian government will raise the tobacco tax by 5% a year over the next three years, the health minister has revealed, along with a series of measures to crack down on vaping.

But he said Australia had no plans to follow New Zealand’s lead by banning tobacco smoking for the next generation.

The Cancer Council and Quit have jointly expressed ‘huge relief’ over new reforms to stop over-the-counter and non-nicotine vapes at the border. The opposition leader has cautiously supported the measures, which include simple laws on packaging and stopping the sale of vaping products in shops.

Related: Australia to ban non-prescription vapes in biggest smoking reforms in a decade

The increase in tobacco taxes will also start from 1 September.

“We know that a higher priced cigarette is a less attractive cigarette,” Health Minister Mark Butler said on Tuesday.

“We will also align the tax treatment of tobacco products so that products such as roll-your-own tobacco and packaged sticks are taxed equally.”

Speaking to the National Press Club, Butler said the tax changes would raise an additional $3.3 billion over the next four years.

Butler said the vaping reforms would include removing prescribing restrictions so all doctors can write a script for those who need to vape to quit smoking.

Director of Quitting Matthew Scanlon said the organization has at times felt “powerless to stop the tide of nicotine addiction,” with children as young as 13 asking the Quitline for help to quit vaping.

“The relief comes from the fact that this puts Australia at the forefront of tobacco control again because vaping was really about reviving the tobacco industry,” said Scanlon.

“Prior to this announcement, it was terrifying to see that after years of successful work to reduce smoking rates, we were seeing a new public health crisis with the industry once again becoming addictive to a new generation of nicotine.” .

People who vape are three times more likely to start smoking, he said.

“Nicotine levels in vapes often far exceed those in cigarettes, and the huge difference between products is how vapes are marketed and accessible to children. They appeal to the youth market, which is the most vulnerable and includes the least damage.”

Opposition leader Peter Dutton told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday that vaping “is a significant problem in our country”.

“It has to be addressed. We would like to support the government in sensible measures which have seen a reduction in vaping rates.”

But he said more details on the reforms were needed.

“I don’t want smoking rates to go up again. I don’t want to see vaping as a gateway to smoking,” said Dutton, who is a former health minister. “We will advocate reasonable measures, but we haven’t seen anything in detail yet.”

The reforms aim to curb the black market that allows children easy access to vaporizers. Schools have reported that this is the number one behavioral problem teachers face as nicotine-addicted kids struggle to get through a lesson without vaping, leading to jitters and anxiety.

An analysis of international research, carried out on behalf of the government by the Australian National University, has found that nicotine use in children and adolescents can lead to lifelong addiction problems, as well as concentration and learning difficulties.

Professor Emily Banks, the lead author of that report and a leading tobacco control expert, said the evidence pointed to the need for policies to prevent the use of vaporizers in non-smokers, particularly young people.

Related: The vaping industry has preyed on young Australians with a wave of dangerous products. These reforms were much needed | Becky Freeman

“What drives the use among young people is above all the wide availability, but also the fact that the industry is targeting young people as regards the flavors and the marketing of the products themselves. It is good to see evidence-based measures finally in place.”

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said he expects states to have to contribute money to fund the reforms, in addition to the $234 million Butler has signaled in the federal budget.

“We will be engaging in good faith,” Andrews told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m sure the Commonwealth Government will plan to pass some of these costs on us.”

Victoria’s opposition health spokesman Georgie Crozier supported the reforms and said she hoped the state government would work together with the Commonwealth.

In October last year, Cancer Council Victoria released a report which found that 77,200 people in Victoria who had never smoked were currently vaping, more than half (57.7%) of whom were under 25.

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