Media ReleaseCollaborate Against Cancer04 Mar 2021

Government’s rejection of Tobacco21 legislation puts young Tasmanians at risk of nicotine addiction

Tobacco21 Bill fails to pass, despite research which shows that if kids reach 21 without smoking they are far less likely to start.

Female high school students smoking a cigarette
Photo Credit: Westend61 via Getty Images.

A collective of public health experts are concerned the Tasmanian government’s rejection of the Tobacco21 Bill (T21), a tobacco control mechanism which would lift the minimum sales age of tobacco products from 18 to 21, sends the wrong message to youth and risks another generation of nicotine addiction.

In a joint statement, Honourable Independent Member Ivan Dean, Minderoo Foundation, Lung Foundation Australia, and SmokeFree Tasmania said they were disappointed by the government’s decision to reject T21 law and instead do ‘more of the same’.

The Honourable Independent Member Ivan Dean MLC who tabled the Bill was ashamed by the Premier’s position.

“Tasmania’s smoking rates remain some of the worst nationally, and it is our responsibility as legislators to take action to protect our youth from a deadly, lifelong addiction. To do nothing on this issue is robbing our kids of their potential and future,” he said.

95 per cent of smokers start smoking before they turn 21. Research by the US Institute of Medicine shows that if young people reach 21 without smoking, they are far less likely to start. Lifting the minimum sales age of tobacco products to 21 years has been shown to be effective in global jurisdictions from the United States to Singapore.

Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer CEO Dr Steve Burnell, said “This is truly a disappointing decision. Education programs alone have had little effect on smoking initiation and addiction rates, whilst similar legislation has been effective in removing nicotine supply from high schools overseas.

“Removing easy access from our kids is more important than ever given the tobacco industry’s devious promotion of vaping pens and flavours, which is driving the e-smoking epidemic affecting young people around the world,” Dr Burnell said.

Lung Foundation Australia, CEO Mark Brooke said bold, evidence-based measures were needed to support the respiratory health of young Australians now and into the future.

“Tobacco smoking remains the largest preventable cause of premature death and disease and there is no age at which it becomes safe. There is good reason to rethink the sales age for tobacco and take measures that prevent young people from becoming addicted to nicotine,” Mr Brooke said.

“Local T21 policies are proven to produce a substantive reduction in smoking among 18-to 20-year-olds in jurisdictions which have implemented the policy measure,” Mr Brooke said.

“We will continue to support Ivan Dean, other community leaders and Tasmanians who want to make T21 a reality in Tasmania.”

SmokeFree Tasmania’s Dr Kathryn Barnsley said Tasmania has the second highest smoking rate in Australia, with 17.9 percent of adults – compared to 14.5 per cent nationally – smoking daily.

“It’s disheartening that our government isn’t willing to show bold leadership in adopting Australian-first tobacco control policies. With high smoking rates in Tasmania and prevention programs to date not making a dent, it is a great shame that the government is not willing to step up to protect the health of young Tasmanians,” she said.

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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