Lights out plan for Tasmanians

TASMANIANS could grow up never being able to buy cigarettes if the state government pursues a radical plan to cut smoking rates.

On Tuesday night, the Legislative Council called on the government to take action, including a progressive phasing out of cigarette sales.

Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne has already asked Children's Commissioner Aileen Ashford to examine the idea, which could mean a ban on anyone born after 2000 from buying tobacco when they turn 18.

Ms O'Byrne said yesterday that a ``smoke-free'' generation could be the next step in addressing the state's high smoking rates.

``We know that giving up smoking is incredibly difficult to do . . . (but) there is no reason why someone who is not smoking now should (be able to) take smoking up later,'' she said.

``I'm really excited about an opportunity where young people could stand up and say: I don't want to be part of this unhealthy lifestyle.''

However, there is little enthusiasm for bans from the Greens or Liberal parties.

``A generation of smoke-free Tasmanians is exactly what we must aim for, but evidence shows that the prohibition approach is not effective,'' Greens health spokesman Paul O'Halloran said.

Pembroke Liberal MLC Vanessa Goodwin echoed his support for prevention, and said her party was also against prohibition.

``There has been a pretty good black market in cigarettes all along. Probably even more so now, because of the cost of cigarettes. I do not think that (prohibition) is the answer,'' she said.

Cancer Council Tasmania deputy chief executive Kathryn Terry said if such a law was passed it would be an Australian first.

``As a community we have put a lot of time and resources into place to minimise smoking and the harm it causes,'' she said.

``Now, I think we need to try something different; something new and innovative to try and stop people smoking.''

The idea is already being pursued overseas.

Meanwhile, the retail industry and Youth Network of Tasmania both expressed reservations.

YNOT executive officer Joanna Siejka questioned the idea's viability.

``It is good to have visionary ideas such as this one to help address the problem, however, it is really important to also look closely at how this would be implemented realistically and effectively,'' she said.

The commissioner is expected to report back next month.

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