Tobacco 21 Position Statement
Tasmania has the most concerning statistics for tobacco usage in the country and the ATDC supports any initiatives that seek to reduce these statistics
The ATDC supports the introduction of the Public Health Amendment (Prevention of sale of smoking products to underage persons) Bill 2018
In providing this support, the ATDC acknowledges that this change will not be the sole remedy for Tasmania’s above-average smoking rates and any initiative must be implemented alongside a suite of evidence-based measures and initiatives, particularly targeting Tasmanians most at risk
In the coming months, Tasmanian Parliament is set to debate the Public Health Amendment (Prevention of sale of smoking products to underage persons) Bill 2018. This Amendment Bill provides for raising the age to 21 for people to whom smoking products, including tobacco and electronic vaping devices, may be sold. The current legislation states that smoking products must not be sold to people under 18 years of age. The aim of this Amendment Bill is to reduce the uptake of smoking amongst young people in Tasmania.
Recent data shows that 95 per cent of smokers start before the age of 21 and research shows that if young people get to 21 without smoking, they are far less likely to start.
Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in Australia, with long term smoking killing two in three users. Tobacco smoking is known to cause 16 different types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, pulmonary diseases including asthma, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, adult periodontal disease as well as many other health harms.
Tasmanian smoking statistics
Tasmania has some alarming statistics in relation to smoking:
- Approximately 70,500 Tasmanians are current smokers
- Tasmania has the second highest smoking rate in Australia (behind the Northern Territory) at around 17.6 per cent compared with 15.1 per cent nationally
- Young Tasmanians are making up a large proportion of these people with 22.6 per cent of 18-24 year olds in Tasmania currently smoking. This is significantly higher than the number of young people smoking in other parts of the country (New South Wales with 10.7%, Victoria with 12.1% and Western Australia with 15.5%)
- While in Tasmania, smoking rates have fallen to an all-time low of 17.6 per cent for current smokers, tobacco is the biggest killer of Tasmanians with over 500 people dying every year – far exceeding the number of people dying from alcohol, illicit drugs, homicides, assaults, road accidents and suicides all added together
- In May 2019, research by the Mitchell Institute identified two suburbs in Hobart as having the highest smoking rates in the country of 40 and 34.4 per cent respectively
- The ATDC is conscious that tobacco smoking rates are higher in lower socio-economic groups, and Tasmania has the highest poverty rate in Australia at 10.5 per cent.
These statistics are not acceptable to the ATDC or our members, and we support any initiative which seeks to reduce these statistics. We believe that the implementation of the proposed Amendment Bill will improve the health outcomes for some of Tasmania’s most vulnerable community members.
The devastating health impacts of smoking are evident and in recent years there has been growing public support for legislation restricting the sale and supply of tobacco. Cancer Council Tasmania undertook research in 2016 which indicated strong community support for raising the legal age of smoking to 21 years of age. This research reported that 72 per cent of Tasmanians surveyed (1,001 individuals) supported the changed with 53 per cent strongly agreeing.
In 2016, research by Cancer Council Tasmania indicated that 72% of Tasmanians supported the change.
A similar survey conducted in 2018 of 3,757 people across New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania revealed strong public support for raising the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years of age. Of those surveyed in Tasmania, 73 per cent of people were in support of such a change.
Following consultations with ATDC members and stakeholders, we can confirm that there is broad support for the amendments outlined in the proposed Amendment Bill, particularly given the absence of the Tobacco Free Generation legislation which was unsuccessful in being supported by the Tasmanian government in 2016.
Tobacco 21 legislation is already in place throughout the United States in 450 cities across 14 states including California, Washington and Hawaii, representing over 30 per cent of the US population. Formal evaluations and modelling suggest that this US legislation should reduce the smoking rate by 12 per cent and reduce smoking-related death by about 10 per cent, which translates into 223,000 fewer premature deaths, 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost. While the US has a much larger population than Australia and indeed Tasmania, these figures highlight the dramatic improvements that can be made by raising the smoking age to 21 years of age.
Tasmania to take action
There is growing momentum around the country on the issue of raising the age of smoking, and the ATDC calls on Members of the Tasmanian Parliament to look at the current tobacco related statistics for Tasmania and take this simple but effective step to save lives.
Knowing that there are approximately 70,500 smokers in Tasmania, and two in three of them will die from this habit, we need to respond. The ATDC applauds the Tasmanian Government for identifying smoking as one of five priority areas for action in the Healthy Tasmania Five Year Strategic Plan – so now, we need to take action.
Tasmania is not a community which shies away from taking the lead in these matters. We were the first state or territory in Australia to ban smoking in all indoor areas of bars, pubs and clubs in 2006, so the acceptance of these proposed amendments would not be the first time that Tasmania has taken the lead in tobacco control legislation.
Similarly, in 1997 the age at which tobacco could be sold to minors was raised from 16 to 18 years of age in Tasmania, virtually overnight. There was no phase-in period and young people who had bought cigarettes one day were not permitted to the next day. In comparison, the current proposed amendments, have a phase-in period, so there is no sudden effect on adolescent smokers attempting to purchase smoking products. Each year from its implementation the age at which tobacco products can be sold is raised until the final year at age 21.
The proposed amendments ensure that the onus of selling tobacco products is on the seller, not the purchaser. Young people who attempt to buy these products are not penalised. Intending purchasers will be obliged to provide age identification if requested by the seller.
The ATDC supports the introduction of the Public Health Amendment (Prevention of sale of smoking products to underage persons) Bill 2018. In providing this support, the ATDC acknowledges that this change will not be the sole remedy for Tasmania’s above-average smoking rates and any initiative must be implemented alongside a suite of evidence-based measures and initiatives, particularly targeting Tasmanians most at risk.
We also echo the words of our member, Cancer Council Tasmania who ask that in supporting this Amendment Bill we should not lose sight of proven tobacco control measures such as hard-hitting social marketing campaigns, tax excise, smoke-free spaces and quit smoking support.
 Minderoo Foundation Smoking Campaign information accessed on 31 May 2019 at https://www.minderoo.com.au/stop-smoking-before-it-starts/news/tough-campaign-implores-australia-to-stop-smoking-before-it-starts/
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Report, December 2018, accessed on 30 May 2019 at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia/contents/drug-types/tobacco
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Evidence for Chronic Disease risk factors, April 2016, accessed on 31 May 2019 at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-disease/evidence-for-chronic-disease-risk-factors/contents/behavioural-and-biomedical-risk-factors
 Minderoo Foundation, as above
 Tobacco Free Kids, Increasing the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21, accessed at https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/factsheets/0376.pdf on 31 May 2019.