Tasmania May Become The First State Or Territory To Lift The Smoking Age From 18

21/12/2015 3:12 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Cork, Ireland

Tasmania will consider extending the minimum legal smoking age beyond 18 years as the state comes to grips with woeful smoking statistics.

The initiative, described as "thinking boldly" in a State Government five-year preventative health plan, would consider increasing the smoking age to 21 or older.

State Health Minister Michael Ferguson told ABC News it was about owning up to a community problem.

"We have unacceptably high rates of smoking, we know that every cigarette is doing you damage and, despite our best efforts through public health over a number of years, we're still nowhere near we're we need to be," Ferguson told The ABC.

"We've got to own up to this and be willing to have a genuine community debate."

Tasmania has the second-highest rate of smoking in the country behind the Northern Territory and more than 30 percent of the island's 18-24 year olds are current smokers, with 15.1 percent of mothers smoking and 33.4 percent of teenage mothers.

Curtin University professor of heath policy Mike Daube told The Huffington Post Australia increasing the legal buying age would have a positive effect on the smoking rate.

"I think it's well worth considering as long as it's supported by strong enforcement and a public awareness campaign," Daube said.

"I think it's very encouraging Tasmania is looking at innovative approaches. The reality is that the vast majority of smokers start before the age of 18 so anything we can do to prevent that is good.

"The bottom line is that smoking is declining."

The five-year plan also tackles obesity with 11 initiatives designed to make Tasmania the healthiest population in Australia by 2025.

However, they've got a long way to go. Figures show that 21.7 per cent of Tasmanians smoke, compared to 18 per cent nationally, while 65.6 per cent of Tasmanians are now overweight or obese, compared to 63.9 per cent five years ago, and

39.4 per cent of Tasmanians have high cholesterol – compared to 32.8 per cent nationally.

Community forums will be held in February 2016 to gauge community opinion on all aspects of the plan.

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