The minimum age a person can buy tobacco products in Tasmania is unlikely to be increased from 18 to 21, despite the state government's struggle to hit its smoking reduction targets and research which indicates smoking rates have increased in some communities.
Ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Sunday, Health Minister Sarah Courtney and Wellbeing Minister Jeremy Rockliff confirmed the Tasmanian government had no plan to increase the minimum age for the sale of tobacco, despite health experts repeatedly recommending it be increased.
Research on smoking rates released by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University on Friday found Tasmania continued to have smoking rates much higher than the national average of 12.2 per cent.
The report, which was based on data obtained from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, revealed suburbs in Hobart continued to have the highest smoking rates in the nation.
According to the data, some Tasmanian suburbs saw a decline in smoking rates, but others in Northern Tasmania saw smoking rates rise between 2014 and 2018.
Suburbs with high smoking rates
- Bridgewater, Gagebrook - 33.9% (down from 39%)
- West Coast - 32.6% (up from 27.1%)
- Smithton - 27.9% (up from 26%)
- East Devonport - 26.7% (up from 26%)
- Acton, Upper Burnie, Wivenhoe - 25.9% (up from 22.8%)
- West Ulverstone - 25.8% (up from 25.6%)
- Invermay, Ravenswood, Mowbray, Waverley - 24.6% (down from 25%)
- George Town, Scottsdale, St Helens - 23.9% (up from 22.6%)
- Beauty Point, Beaconsfield - 23.8% (up from 22%)
- Longford, Northern Midlands - 21.5% (down from 21.6%)
- Kings Meadows, Summerhill, South Launceston - 18.2% (down from 20.1%)
When former Health Minister Michael Ferguson launched a five-year plan to create a more healthy Tasmania in 2016 he said the government aimed to reduce smoking rates to 10 per cent by 2020.
A Tobacco Control Plan progress report released by the Health Department in November last year revealed the smoking reduction targets were not likely to be achieved. The report contained a recommendation to increase the minimum age for the sale of tobacco from 18 to 21.
The same recommendation was made in the Smoke Free Generation strategy document the Health Department handed the government last year.
Mr Rockliff said the government knew it could do "better" work to reduce smoking rates in the state.
"We have made addressing smoking a key priority ... there has been significant increased investment and reform in addressing the rates of smoking within the state," Mr Rockliff said.
"I understand that [Independent member for Windermere Ivan Dean], with the Minderoo Foundation, is awaiting the outcome of research by the Menzie's Institute for Medical Research into tobacco prevention strategies, including Tobacco 21 [a plan to ban the sale of tobacco to Tasmanians aged under 21].
"We look forward to seeing any new information Mr Dean may want to present."
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Mr Rockliff said future anti-smoking legislation would be judged on its merits.