19 Mar, 2015 Last updated: 19 Mar, 2015

VicHealth today welcomed a report that shows that plain packaging of cigarettes is stopping generations of young Australians from starting to smoke.

A special supplement in the British Medical Journal looks at the impact of plain packaging of tobacco products on the community in Australia. It was published today (19 March) to coincide with the 6th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Australia was the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in December 2012. In recent weeks, both Ireland and the United Kingdom have legislated to follow suit. 

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said Australia was leading the way in creating a smokefree generation.

"Smoking is the single most preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia and claims the lives of 15,000 people every year.

"This report shows that plain packaging works. We know that cigarettes are now less appealing to young people and adults, and that people are increasingly thinking about and trying to quit smoking.

"We can definitively say today that plain packaging is beginning to tackle the problem. We have one of the lowest smoking rates in the world and are on the path to creating a healthier and smokefree generation. This is something of which Australia can be very proud."

Ms Rechter also welcomed news today that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Microsoft Corporation co-founder Bill Gates are launching a fund to help low and middle income countries in their battle with the tobacco industry.

Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have provided USD $4 million to create the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund.

Ms Rechter said: "VicHealth was established in 1987 with a tax on tobacco and as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Leadership in Health Promotion, we’re working with governments and organisations across the globe, particularly in the Western Pacific, to help them improve the health of their citizens.

"In particular, this new fund will help smaller, developing countries, many of which are Australia’s neighbours, in fighting expensive and protracted legal battles with the tobacco industry," Ms Rechter added. 

Read key findings of the evaluation and download the papers 

Media Contact: Helen Walsh, Senior Media Advisor, 03 9667 1319 or 0435 761 732 or email [email protected].