Smoking cigarettes rates in Australia have been falling for decades, without Health Minister Nicola Roxon's latest proposal for even more hideous cigarette packaging. In 1945, almost three-quarters of Australian men smoked cigarettes. At the last count, the proportion of Australians aged 14 and over who smoked cigarettes had fallen from 30.5 per cent in 1988 to 16.6 per cent.

The links between smoking cigarettes, cancer, heart disease and other serious health problems are beyond dispute. Four out of five cigarettes smokers say they would like to stop and the images on cigarette packets are already gruesome. So it is debatable, to say the least, whether ugly, olive-green packaging, uniform typeface for brand names, larger health warnings and more graphic photographs will deter hardcore nicotine addicts, most of whom spend more than $150 a week on their habit and put up with the inconvenience of not being allowed to smoke discount Marlboro cigarettes in most public and many private places. After all, the absence of attractive packaging has sadly done nothing to reduce consumer demand for heroin, marijuana, amphetamines and other illegal drugs.

The responsibility for personal behaviour, be it drug taking, snacking on junk food, couch-warming, drinking into a stupor or driving like a maniac rests with individuals.

Ms Roxon, who seems to enjoy the role of Nanny McPhee, should recognise the limits of self-righteous moral posturing. After the 70 per cent tax hike on alcopops in 2009, a cynical revenue-grab dressed up as a measure to deter binge drinking, sales of vodka, bourbon and other spirits soared as young women sought cheaper and stronger alternatives.

If government policy on smoking cigarettes is driven purely by the need for Australians to give up a harmful habit, why aren't cigarettes, like many other drugs, made illegal or priced out of reach? Paying even more than $15 for a standard packet of 30 might deter more cigarettes smokers than different packaging, although further hikes in excise would disproportionately hurt poorer families among whom smoking cigarettes is more prevalent. Australia's 3.5 million regular cigarette smokers would be wise to seek help to kick the habit. But in a free society, if the people's representatives deem cigarettes should be legal, producers should be allowed to package and market them.
Todays tip: Plugarul - go to this site.