Fuse lit on smoking war
GYMPIE politicians yesterday questioned the effectiveness and philosophy of a call to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.
A campaign to lift the minimum smoking
age is reportedly gaining traction in Queensland, with a new poll showing 81 per cent of people support the change.
The plan is led by mining and philanthropic figures Andrew and Nicola Forrest as part of the Eliminating Cancer Initiative.
The campaign, which aims to reduce the rate of tobacco-related deaths in Australia, is also championed by NRL player and Australian of the Year Johnathan Thurston.
Politically significant support also comes from Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles, who said the plan seemed to have merit and "should be considered nationally.”
Gympie's non-smoking state and federal parliamentary representatives, Tony Perrett and Llew O'Brien, welcomed the idea's intention but questioned the effectiveness of such a law. Both said they understood the public health and other issues involved.
Mr Perrett said he welcomed attempts to reduce the number of people taking up smoking but would need to be convinced that this was an effective way to achieve that.
"Whether it's 18 or 21 or 25 or 35, I'm not sure of the difference it will make and I would need to see some evidence,” he said.
Mr O'Brien said he understood what the campaign aimed to achieve, but also wondered if adults should have some right to make up their own minds.
"I appreciate that the campaign highlights the damage smoking does, but at 18 people can be conscripted, they can vote and they are afforded all the legal rights, privileges and responsibilities that go with being an adult.
"If that means a person chooses to engage in a legal behaviour that is potentially damaging to their health, that is a decision for them.
"In a similar way, I would also like to see funding of an organisation like Road Craft, to roll out a national driver education plan to reduce fatalities and injuries on the road.”
Mr Forrest said two-thirds of Queensland's 450,000 daily smokers would die from their habit. "But we can change these horrific outcomes if we work together to stop lifetime smoking habits from forming,” he said.
Mr Miles said he was yet to receive a detailed briefing on the idea.
He said the proposal should be considered during development of the new national tobacco strategy.