Cancer Council Australia has announced its support of Tasmania’s proposed Tobacco21 bill, demonstrating the potential national significance of the bill.
The bill, which would raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes from 18 to 21, has been put to Tasmania’s upper house by Independent Minister Ivan Dean. The state has one of the highest smoking rates in Australia and 78 per cent of Tasmanians support the proposed change.
However, despite this support, Mr Dean has elected to delay the bill’s second reading, while it remains unclear whether the state government will back the proposal.
Sanchia Aranda, chief executive of the Cancer Council, penned a letter to Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman, in support of the bill.
“This bill has the potential to be the forerunner of national change, with Tasmania demonstrating national leadership in making tobacco control a priority again,” Pr Aranda wrote.
Mr Dean is pleased the Tasmanian community, and health officials across Australia agree that the policy is what the state needs.
“I am thrilled that Cancer Council has come out in support of Tobacco21,” Mr Dean said.
“It is validating to know that Australia’s peak cancer body believes this bill is the way forward not only for Tasmania but also the country. I am of course disappointed the government is yet to announce its position, but I believe that in time we will get there.
“I am hopeful that over the coming weeks, we can work together to answer any questions the government has. Once that happens, then we can get on with saving young Tasmanian lives.”
Last week, Mr Dean led a legislative council briefing to examine the proposed bill. The briefing was attended by Tasmania’s leading health organisations including the Australian Medical Association, the Menzies School of Medical Research, the Australian Dentist Association and SmokeFree Tasmania, all of which support Tobacco21.
Tobacco retail groups also attended the briefing, including the Australian Retailers Association, the Australasian Lottery and Newsagents Association, and the Tasmanian Hospitality Association. The retailers, which have a history of receiving funding from the tobacco industry, all opposed the bill, arguing Tobacco21 would have a serious effect on sales.
Bruce Mansfield, Collaborate Against Cancer adviser, believes that the briefing went well.
“The legislative council has asked for further time to consider the information presented at the briefing, and Mr Dean has done the right thing delaying the bill for now,” Mr Mansfield said.
“This is an opportunity for members to consider all the information that was presented last week, then Mr Dean can confidently approach the second reading.”
At this stage, Mr Dean is yet to set a date for the second reading. Once the second reading has occurred, debate on the bill can commence, followed by the vote. If passed, the bill will then travel to the lower house to be considered by the House of Assembly.