Smoking, drinking and illicit drugs are costing the Australian economy $56 billion a year.

Australia’s drinking, smoking and drug-taking caused a lot of sickness, disease, premature death, reduced productivity, crime and accidents in the year to July 2005. The report shows costs were up to $56 billion, from about $34 billion when the estimate was last made in the late 1990s.
The latest estimate puts the cost of alcohol-associated problems at $15 billion. It estimates Illicit drugs cost Australia about $8 billion. But by far the biggest problem is tobacco. The report says it cost $31.5 billion – 56 per cent of the total.
“The smoking rates are reducing but the delayed health effects of past smoking are still being seen,” Health Minister Nicola Roxon said. “So we do hope that in the future, pretty long term in the future, that the lower rates of smoking will see a decline in this social cost.”
Professor Simon Chapman from the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney says Australia is a world leader in anti-tobacco campaigns, but more practical steps need to be taken to make smoking history. “We could begin by putting all cigarettes under the counter in the way that pharmaceutical, ethical drugs are not displayed,” he told AM.
“We could put them in plain packaging rather than the really enticing attractive boxes which are highly market researched to appeal to young people. We could put the price of cigarettes up a lot more and we could regulate the product itself. It’s the only product that is taken into the body which is not subject to, sort of quality controls, safety controls.”
The Labor Party says it is taking a different approach to the previous government in health policy, putting more emphasis on prevention. The director of the Australian Institute of Health Policy Studies, Professor Brian Oldenburg, says there is little detail so far.
“I think at least compared to the previous government, there is the expressed intent to really put more effort into prevention, but we are still waiting to see how that is going to work its way through the system,” he said. Ms Roxon will release the figures on the social costs of drugs and alcohol at the first ever national illness prevention summit, which begins in Melbourne today.

Source: ABC News April 9th 2008

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