Australian state to increase smoking age to 21 as part of radical health plan

December 21, 2015 12:39 pm 

MELBOURNE, Dec. 21 — An Australian state government has outlined its plan to increase the smoking age well above the national standard of 18.

The Tasmanian government is proposing that young adults not be allowed to smoke until they are 21.

The government initiative is part of a bold shake-up of health care policy, with Tasmania aiming to become Australia's healthiest state by 2025.

Currently more than half of Tasmanians are overweight or obese, while 20 percent of the population smoke, the second highest rate in the nation.

Tasmania's Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the smoking proposal, the first component of the government's preventative health plan to be released in early 2016, was under serious consideration.

"We are proposing that we lift the legal smoking age potentially above 18, to potentially 21 or potentially 25," Ferguson told the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) on Monday.

"(In Tasmania) we have unacceptably high rates of smoking, we know that every cigarette is doing you damage and, despite our best efforts through public health over a number of years, we're still nowhere near we're we need to be.

"We have very high rates of youth smoking and one-third of young teenage mothers smoking during pregnancy."

"We've got to own up to this and be willing to have a genuine community debate."

Every state in australia regulates the sale and possession of tobacco products to those above the age of 18.

In 2012, australia adopted a world-first mandate to implement plain-packaging, removing all branding on cigarette products in a bid to make smoking less attractive to impressionable youngsters.

According to the Cancer Council, Australia's peak authority on the disease, 32 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in Tasmania are regular smokers.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) praised the idea, saying smoking was Australia's biggest barrier to achieving better health.

"The important thing to realize is 100 percent of habitual smokers have started smoking by the age of 25," AMA Tasmanian secretary Tim Greenaway told the ABC on Monday.

"Two-thirds of all smokers will die from smoking-related diseases and smoking causes more deaths than drug and alcohol abuse combined, so we must target smoking." (PNA/Xinhua)

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