Minderoo Foundation’s Eliminate Cancer initiative has today launched a hard-hitting ad campaign calling for the minimum purchasing age for cigarettes to be raised from 18 to 21 to protect Australian kids.
The campaign features 52-year-old Jason Trewin from Perth who started smoking at age 14. He now has terminal lung cancer and has been told he has four weeks to live.
The campaign will initially run for one month in Tasmania, where the Tobacco 21 bill is due to be read for a second time in Parliament in August. The policy has the support of the Australian Medical Association and polls show the bill has support from 73 per cent of Tasmanian voters.
Similar changes to legislation have been discussed in other States, but no bill has been tabled and it appears that the other States are looking at Tasmania as a pilot for implementation.
Minderoo Foundation’s Eliminate Cancer adviser Bruce Mansfield said the campaign was a stark reminder of the consequence of putting cigarettes in the hands of young Australians.
“95 per cent of smokers start before the age of 21. History tells us if they get to 21 without smoking, they are far less likely to start and could avoid becoming lifelong customers of big tobacco,” Mr Mansfield said.
“Now is the time for us to protect our children from a lifetime of debilitating and often fatal addiction – to stop smoking before it starts.”
Tobacco 21 legislation is already in place throughout the United States in more than 450 cities and counties across 27 states including California and Hawaii, representing over 30 percent of the US population.
“Tasmania’s politicians have the overwhelming support of the community and the opportunity to lead the way for the rest of Australia by taking this simple but effective step to save lives,” Mr Mansfield said.
“This is a policy that must be implemented on a state-by-state basis. There is growing momentum from Australians across the country to see these laws put in place and we call on all members of parliament to pay attention.”
According to Jason Trewin, the law is overdue.
“We need to make it harder for our kids to get cigarettes,” Mr Trewin said.
“I started when I was just a kid, because I saw my uncle, my hero, doing it. I’ve been battling the addiction ever since. Even now, I’ve been given four weeks to live because of it, and I still can’t give them up – that’s how stupid, deadly and addictive these things are.”
Tasmania has the second highest rate of daily smokers in Australia at 17.9 per cent, compared with 14.5 per cent nationally.
The difference is even greater among younger people, with 32 per cent of 18 – 24-year-old Tasmanians smoking, compared to NSW’s 10.7 per cent, Victoria’s 12.1 per cent and WA’s 15.5 per cent.
A 2018 survey of 3757 voters across New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania revealed strong public support for raising the buying age for tobacco to 21:
• New South Wales – 81% of voters support
• Victoria – 79% of voters support
• Western Australia – 81% of voters support
• Tasmania – 73% of voters support
The campaign will run in Tasmania across TV and radio, and nationally online for the next four weeks. As part of the campaign, Eliminate Cancer is asking Australians to share their story and join the campaign for change at www.tobacco21.com.au.