We all know that tobacco is a highly addictive product that can cause various health problems when smoked or consumed. It’s not surprising that it’s the leading cause of preventable death in Australia, killing more than 15,000 people every year.
Aside from smokers, tobacco smoking also kills the environment. It’s a known fact that tobacco cultivation requires large amounts of water, pesticides, fertilisers, and wood for its processes.
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But why is it illegal to grow tobacco in Australia, and how did the tobacco industry decline in this country? Let’s find out.
Can You Grow Tobacco in Australia?
It’s worth mentioning that the excise duty on tobacco is one of the main sources of income for the Australian government, generating more than $1,800 per one kilogram of tobacco in 2019-20.
More importantly, the excise duty also serves as a deterrent for tobacco consumption, as it increases the price of tobacco products and makes them less affordable for consumers.
However, obtaining an excise licence for tobacco is not easy, as the ATO imposes strict requirements and conditions for applicants.
For example, applicants must demonstrate that they have adequate security, record-keeping, and reporting systems, and that they comply with all relevant laws and regulations.
In addition, applicants must also pay an application fee and an annual licence charge, which vary depending on the type and scale of the tobacco operation.
These high barriers to growing tobacco have so far reduced and discouraged parties planning to be tobacco growers or manufacturers in Australia.
The last tobacco factory in Australia closed down in 2015, and the last tobacco crops were harvested in 2006. Since then, all tobacco products sold in Australia have been imported from overseas, mainly from foreign exporters.
The Steep Decline of Tobacco Farming in Australia
Farming tobacco was once a lucrative and thriving industry in Australia, especially in the states of Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales.
Tobacco was introduced to Australia by Indonesian farmers during the early 18th century and was initially grown for personal use or local trade. Tobacco farming expanded in the 19th and 20th centuries as demand for tobacco increased domestically and internationally.
At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, tobacco farming became a bustling industry with high profits and returns for farmers and distributors. At this point, tobacco was considered a valuable cash crop, as it fetched high prices and had a stable profit margin.
However, tobacco farming in Australia began to decline in the 1970s and 1980s, as a result of several factors, such as:
- The growing awareness of the health risks of smoking, which led to a decrease in tobacco consumption and demand
- The increasing competition from cheaper and better-quality tobacco imports, eroded the profitability and viability of domestic tobacco production
- The rising costs of labour, land, water, and inputs, reduced the margins and returns of tobacco farming
- The environmental and social concerns about the negative impacts of tobacco cultivation, such as deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, and child labour
- The pressure from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international bodies, which urged Australia to adopt measures to reduce tobacco supply and demand, in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)
In response to these challenges, the Australian government implemented a series of policies and programs to phase out tobacco farming in Australia. These included:
- The removal of subsidies, quotas, tariffs, and other forms of assistance for tobacco growers and manufacturers, consequently causing the rise of tobacco prices up to this day.
- The introduction of excise duty and other taxes on tobacco products, to increase their price and reduce their affordability
- The enactment of legislation and regulations to ban or restrict tobacco advertising, promotion, sponsorship, packaging, labelling, and display
- The provision of grants and incentives for tobacco farmers to exit the industry and switch to alternative crops or activities
- The establishment of education and awareness campaigns to inform the public about the harms of smoking and the benefits of quitting
These policies and programs were successful in reducing tobacco production and consumption in Australia, as well as improving public health and the environment.
Perhaps one downside to all these laws, a consequence that cannot be avoided at all, is the emergence of illicit tobacco trade and production, which evaded taxes and regulations and posed risks to consumers and law enforcement.
Why is it Illegal to Grow Tobacco in Australia?
There is good reason for the government and various international bodies to ban the illegal growth of tobacco.
Tobacco is a harmful and addictive substance that causes many diseases and deaths, and imposes a huge burden on your health.
Aside from legal tobacco growing being an excisable good that is subject to excise duty, the laws and licences are meant to regulate and control its production and supply, increasing its prices to encourage smokers to reduce their consumption due to expenses.
Furthermore, tobacco is a crop that requires a lot of resources and causes environmental and social problems, such as deforestation, water pollution, and even child labour.
It’s clear to see that there are legal, moral, and environmental issues in growing tobacco in Australia. It’s not possible to just grow tobacco in your backyard and consume rolled cigarettes. You may face huge fines and legal action if you do so.
If you find yourself craving cigarettes and feel that the cost of cigarettes is becoming too high, it might be time to stop smoking.
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