By Melissa Jenkins http://news.smh.com.au
The message is simple: every cigarette is a step closer to cancer.
Emphysema sufferer Mic Roberts, 49, wasn't lucky enough to have such public health messages around when he decided to start smoking.
He is waiting for a lung transplant having lost 90 per cent of his lung function, and is on oxygen 24 hours a day.
"It doesn't just affect me, it affects my family, my friends, so it's pretty devastating," the father of four told reporters in Melbourne after the launch of the largest ever national tobacco campaign.
"When I was 14, 15, and smoking down the footy oval at school or whatever, we were told 'Anyhow have a Winfield' (and) 'Come to Marlboro country'.
"We were sucked in.
"If I had my way I'd make every packet of cigarette black with the word death on it - then you know what you're buying."
The $61 million advertising campaign launched on Sunday highlights coughing up blood can be one of the first signs of lung cancer.
The advertisements tell smokers `every cigarette brings you closer to cancer'.
Mr Roberts, who smoked for 32 years, urged smokers not to dismiss a cough as nothing and quit before it is too late.
"When I coughed I was still lighting a cigarette and saying `of course I cough, I'm a smoker,' he said.
"I know it's difficult but if you want to live, give up."
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government was ready for a showdown with tobacco companies as it prepares to introduce plain packaging legislation into parliament in the middle of this year.
If the legislation passes parliament, enforcement would begin on July 1, 2012.
"We know the legislation will be subject to challenge," Ms Roxon told reporters.
"The big tobacco companies have made absolutely clear that they will fight tooth and nail every step we take to try to restrict their ability to market their products.
"We are not going to back away from that fight."
From Tuesday, smokers will be able to access nicotine replacement therapy more cheaply if they have a prescription, as it will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, so taxpayers cover most of the cost.
Australian Lung Foundation chief executive William Darbishire said while smoking rates were declining, anecdotal evidence suggested young girls aged between 17 to 19 were smoking at alarming rates.
"More women are dying now from lung cancer than from breast cancer," he told reporters.
"In movies more and more people are smoking now ... that's probably why younger people think it's cool."
The government's target is to reduce the rate of smoking amongst adults in Australia to 10 per cent by 2018.
Some 15,000 Australians die each year from tobacco-related diseases and smoking costs the economy $31.5 billion annually.
The campaign will run throughout 2011 on television and radio and in print and online.
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