More than 45 per cent of the United States population is now covered by legislation restricting under 21s from purchasing cigarettes.
With the passing of the Tobacco 21 law in Connecticut yesterday, and Texas on June 7, the legislation raising the minimum purchasing age from 18 to 21 now includes the country’s two largest states, California and Texas, and largest cities, New York and Los Angeles.
Minderoo Foundation’s Eliminate Cancer initiative (ECI) is continuing to campaign for the legislation to be made law in Australia. The initiative launched a powerful campaign on World No Tobacco day last month in Tasmania, where the Tobacco 21 bill is due to be read for a second time in the Parliament’s Upper House in early August.
Similar changes to legislation have been discussed elsewhere in Australia, but no bill has been tabled and it appears the other States and Territories are looking at Tasmania as a pilot for implementation.
ECI advisor Bruce Mansfield says the passing in Texas is a watershed moment for tobacco control in the US and should boost the confidence of Australia’s state health ministers who are yet to act.
“We can’t afford to be left behind on this – raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 will make it harder for our kids to get their hands on cigarettes during a time in their lives when they are vulnerable to the pressures of peers and sophisticated industry interference,” Mr Mansfield said.
“95 per cent of smokers today started before the age of 21. The extreme likelihood is if they had made it to 21 without smoking, they never would have started.”
A 2018 poll of 3,757 voters across New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania found more than 7 in 10 voters in each state supported the Tobacco 21 policy. The policy also has the support of the Australian Medical Association.
“The sooner we put this simple and effective measure into place alongside existing, effective tobacco control measures, the better. The Australian public wants action.”
Tobacco use remains the world’s leading cause of preventable death, killing more than seven million people worldwide every year.
The Texas Tobacco 21 law will go into effect on September 1, 2019