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State Government considers lifting the legal smoking age

December 21, 2015


THE  State Government is considering raising the legal smoking age in Tasmania to 21 or 25, under a plan to improve the woeful health statistics.

The proposal, which would be an Australian-first, is among a number of preventive measures floated in a draft consultative healthy Tasmania five-year strategic plan.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the goal of taking the state from being one of the unhealthiest populations to the healthiest by 2025 was “deliberately ambitious”.

The Government is seeking suggestions for tackling key problem areas, including physical inactivity, high alco­hol consumption and low fruit and vegetable intake, but has highlighted smoking and obesity as its major priorities for the next five years.

Mr Ferguson said there was international evidence that significant health benefits could be achieved by raising the minimum legal smoking age from 18 to 21 or 25.

More than 30 per cent of Tasmanians aged 18-24 are daily or occasional smokers

“Studies show that most smokers take up the habit ­before the age of 25. There would likely be significant health benefits for the community and savings to the health system over time if the rate of people taking up smoking was reduced,” he said.

“No government in Australia has considered or contemplated the idea of lifting the smoking age … We want [this] to be barbecue stopper and we want Tasmanians to tell us what they think.”

The State Government has previously been criticised for a limited focus on preventive health, with health policy ­efforts mainly directed ­towards hospital reform.

The Australian Medical Association, the Cancer Council and the Heart Foundation have welcomed the new direction on health.

AMA state president Tim Greenaway said he would favour raising the legal smoking age to 25.

Opposition health spokeswoman Rebecca White said the preventive health plan was welcome, but underwhelming.

“Despite being in government for nearly two years and receiving a preventive health committee report in July, the Liberals are only releasing a consultation paper now,” Ms White said.

“Today’s announcement is backed up by no new money.”

She said Labor believed in de-normalising smoking and would closely consider the Government’s smoking ­proposals.

MLC Ivan Dean presented a private member’s Bill for a tobacco-free generation to the Legislative Council earlier this year, which aimed to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after 2000, from 2018.

The consultation draft will be open for public comment until February 19.

Published by: The Mercury, 21/12/15