While the tobacco industry thinks the Government’s proposal to raise the legal smoking age is too strong, SmokeFree Tasmania believes our approach doesn’t go far enough, which is an indication that our proposal is striking the right balance.

I have actively encouraged public input on our proposal, so I welcome SmokeFree Tasmania being part of what is an important debate. However, any contribution this group makes to the debate should be properly informed, not just passionate.

I believe we can all agree that smoking is harmful and we need to take bold action on to ensure the health of our community into the future.

While the Government has openly supported the intent of the Tobacco Free Generation Bill, we do not believe that imposing a blanket ban on tobacco sales is realistic or workable. There is no evidence anywhere in the world that it works.

Instead, we have looked at research and practical evidence from overseas, which supports raising the minimum legal smoking age as an effective way to target the most at-risk age category for smoking uptake and the key problem of secondary supply to teens, while avoiding the issues of workability and practicality that the Tobacco Free Generation proposal suffers from.

Unfortunately SmokeFree Tasmania’s statements on the Government’s proposal to raise the minimum legal smoking age are based on a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the proposal.

The proposal would simply be an extension of existing laws, which are understood and work well.

This would mean that it is illegal for such a person to buy or smoke cigarettes and sends a clear message that smoking is harmful for your health. Contrary to the assertion, there is no suggestion by anyone of tobacco being safe at any age whatsoever.

Raising the minimum legal smoking age would be no more complex or punitive than the existing legislation, however the evidence is that it would be effective in reducing young people taking up smoking.

Retailers would be subject to the same monitoring and compliance checks as at present, and would simply be required to check a different number on a person’s identification card in compliance with a new law. It is difficult to see how that is more complex than what currently occurs under the law.

As the Healthy Tasmania document states, any change to the legal smoking age would be phased in over time. People are not going to be allowed to legally smoke one day, and have it illegal the next day.

And as we’ve made clear, any move to raise the minimum legal smoking age would be part of a range of continuing measures that reduce smoking uptake and encourage smokers to quit. This will continue to denormalise smoking and the idea that smoking is ever safe.

Reducing the uptake of smoking by young people while encouraging existing smokers to quit remain priorities for the Tasmanian Government as part of our goal for Tasmania to be the healthiest state by 2025. We are pleased at the interest and supportive comments we have received from other public health stakeholders on this proposal.

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