A push to raise Tasmania's legal age for the purchase of cigarettes has been defeated in the state's Legislative Council - a result the sponsor of the bill has described as "bitterly disappointing".
The T21 bill sought to amend the Public Health Act to increase the legal purchase age from 18 to 21.
It was hoped the legislation would reduce Tasmania's smoking rates, which are the second highest of all states and territories at more than 17 per cent.
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The bill was the brainchild of independent Windermere MLC Ivan Dean and was supported by mining magnate Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest's philanthropic organisation the Minderoo Foundation.
During debate in the upper house on Tuesday, Mr Dean pointed out to his colleagues that all the nation's major health organisations had backed the T21 bill, including the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Cancer Council.
He said his draft legislation had been modelled on "global best practice" and that similar legislation had been implemented on a national scale in the United States and Singapore.
"It is well-established that young people are more susceptible to addiction," he said.
"If we can prevent the process of starting the smoking we can go some way to alleviating the suffering in our community.
"What this bill sets out to do is increase the barriers to the industry addicting our young people."
The bill was voted down 11 votes to 3.
Mr Dean said surveys had shown that up to 78 per cent of Tasmanians supported the T21 proposal.
"We can send a message to the community that we have heard their pleas to reduce youth smoking rates," he said.
"The right decision moving forward is to support this bill, a bill that we know will make a difference."
Independent McIntyre MLC Tania Rattray said that while she "detests" smoking, she couldn't support Mr Dean's bill because she believed it would be "costly and difficult to implement".
She said she was concerned about the consequences for small business of raising the legal purchase age .
"Being someone who's been a small business owner, it's not an easy gig," Ms Rattray said.
"I'm concerned about the impact that the bill will have on Tasmania's small business community. I know first-hand how small the margins can be."
Meanwhile, independent Mersey MLC Mike Gaffney supported the bill - in fact, he felt it should have gone even further and raised the purchase age to 25, which he said could stop smoking from being seen as a "rite of passage".
"Let's take this issue by the scruff of the neck and do something about it," he said.
But Liberal and Labor members were united in their opposition to the legislation, consigning the bill to defeat through sheer weight of numbers.
I'm concerned about the impact that the bill will have on Tasmania's small business community. I know first-hand how small the margins can be.Tania Rattray, independent McIntyre MLC
Opposition education spokesman Josh Willie said a greater focus was needed on education indicators so as to address disadvantage in the state, of which he said smoking was a "symptom".
"Arguably, improving education outcomes is a long-term project," he said.
"But it is the biggest lever the state government has to influence ... health outcomes."
Leonie Hiscutt, Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, said the state government believed it needed to target a "younger cohort of people" as part of its effort to bring down smoking rates.
Mrs Hiscutt said the government had put a "considerable amount of work" into implementing its Tasmanian Tobacco Control Plan 2017-2021 and was developing a youth-focused smoking prevention package that would target students from Year 6 onwards.
"We will always welcome considered, measured bills to decrease smoking rates in our state," she said.
"The government will not be supporting this bill."
Replying to members upon realising his bill had not garnered the requisite support, Mr Dean said his colleagues were not "prepared to stand up and be counted".
"You recognise the problem, but you don't want to address it," he said.
"That's like saying, 'My car's got no brakes, I won't do anything about it but I'll drive it'."
Young people under the age of 21 would not have been penalised for attempting to buy cigarettes, tobacco or electronic vaping devices under the provisions of the bill.
Tasmania changed the age at which tobacco could be sold to minors in 1997, raising it from 16 to 18.
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