April 21, 2015

Phasing out tobacco sales

The Public Health Amendment (Tobacco-free Generation) Bill 2014 tabled in the Tasmanian Parliament by Independent MP Ivan Dean was debated on 24 March 2015 in the Legislative Council. The Bill is designed to phase out the sale of tobacco products to persons born after the year 2000. It is a supply side measure, aimed squarely at big tobacco, and designed to improve the health of Tasmanians, who currently have the highest smoking rates of any state in Australia. There are over 70,000 smokers in the state, 70% of acute admissions are smokers and around 700 die every year from smoking related illnesses. Smoking has been described as a paediatric disease by the Surgeon General Dr. David Kessler, because smoking begins when people are children. Almost no-one ever takes up smoking as an adult, and most smokers regret starting and want to quit.

The Public Health Amendment (Tobacco Free Generation) Bill 2014 will

  • Stop the sale of tobacco products to anyone born since the year 2000, the tobacco free generation.
  • Prevent the supply of tobacco products by licensed tobacco sellers, or their agents, to members of the tobacco free generation.
  • Provide (with penalty) that members of the tobacco free generations must not give false identification to tobacco sellers.
  • Not prevent members of the tobacco free generation from smoking, or attempting to purchase tobacco products.
  • Not penalise any member of the tobacco free generation for smoking.
  • Not prevent friends and family from giving tobacco products, such as a few cigarettes to members of the tobacco free generation, however, they must not SELL tobacco products to them.
  • Not prevent “botting” of cigarettes by members of the tobacco free generation. They would be able to scrounge or borrow cigarettes, and would not be penalised.

In effect, the Amendment gradually raises the age for tobacco products to be sold to a person, from 18 years to 21 years, then again to 25 years.  It signals: no acceptable age for tobacco use, and no rite-of-passage to such an age. The Bill provides for reviews of the amendment, which must then be tabled in Parliament, when the tobacco free generation reach the age of 21 years, in 2021 and again in 2025.

In March the World Conference on Tobacco of Health in Abu Dhabi commended Tasmania for this initiative in its final conference resolutions, when it said, “The conference commends jurisdictions including the Australian state of Tasmania that are advancing initiatives to create Tobacco Free Generations for all persons born since the year 2000”. The Director-General of WHO personally expressed her strong support for this initiative. The Lung Foundation of Australia sent letters of support for the Bill to the Minister of Health in Tasmania.

The amendment has been through the first stage and several members spoke on the second stage. It has now been referred to a parliamentary Committee to consider issues of “practicality” and “workability” before a vote is taken.

Further information click here or see Lancet Respiratory Medicine editorial 26th March 2015.