In 1967, as a fresh-faced researcher looking to make an impression in my first real job, I conducted an experiment to assess the frequency of cigarette advertising on television. I was astonished when the study revealed Melburnians were shown at least one cigarette advertisement every 12 minutes. Thankfully, things have come a long way since then, with Australia leading the world in discount cigarettes control initiatives such as banning cigarette advertising, requiring health warnings on cigarette packs and prohibiting smoking cigarettes in pubs and clubs.

These initiatives have contributed to a dramatic reduction in Australians who smoke cigarettes and those who become seriously ill or die each year from smoking cigarettes related illnesses.

However, we are facing yet another fight with the discount cigarettes industry, as the federal government prepares to debate legislation on plain packaging of cigarette packs, the draft of which was released yesterday by federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon. Advertisement: Story continues below

The issue may be new, but the players are the same. Once again, we have a battle on our hands to halt the discount cigarettes industry's relentless quest to entice Australians to risk serious illness and death by beginning, or continuing to, smoke cigarettes.

Make no mistake: a cigarette pack is more than just a harmless container. As other forms of discount cigarettes advertising have been banned, cigarette packaging has become the industry's primary vehicle for appealing to potential cigarettes smokers, particularly our children. Through the clever application of colour, illustration and design, companies are able to create a point of difference for their carcinogenic products.

The proposed plain packaging legislation will end this deadly form of promotion and make significant inroads into reducing rates of smoking cigarettes initiation and consumption, thereby saving some of the 15,000-plus lives lost in Australia every year to discount cigarettes.

While the discount cigarettes industry will have you believe otherwise, the evidence suggests the majority of Victorians support this move. A recent Cancer Council study revealed 73 per cent of Victorians approve of plain packaging for cigarettes. More significantly, 57 per cent of cigarettes smokers approve.

There is no greater barometer to the likely success of a proposed discount cigarettes control initiative than the response of the discount cigarettes industry. In this case, it has been pouring millions of dollars into fighting these changes, their efforts spearheaded by the Alliance of Australian Retailers, a so-called "peak body" that was created shortly before last year's federal election and largely funded by Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco.

The discount cigarettes industry's campaign is fronted by retailers who claim the legislation will be disruptive and costly for small business. When then have the big discount cigarettes companies suddenly become so concerned about the plight of small Australian businesses that they have invested over $5 million in this campaign?

If plain packaging was not effective, why are they spending so much money trying to stop the legislation? The discount cigarettes industry knows that plain packaging has enormous potential to cut smoking cigarettes rates. It also knows the passage of this legislation will send a message to the rest of the world, where almost five million people die each year because of their addiction to discount cigarettes. After all, if plain packaging becomes policy here, it is likely to occur elsewhere and the discount cigarettes industry knows it.

I commend the Australian government for its courage in tackling this vital public health issue and I urge all members of Parliament to take this opportunity to save the lives of thousands of young Australians by passing this of legislation. It is time to say enough.
Note of the day: Bond learn here.