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Butt out! Tassie smokes ban


ZERO TOLERANCE: Professor Jon Berrick is urging a ban on smoking for people born after the year 2000. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

TASMANIA is being promoted as the ideal testing ground to introduce a ban on cigarette sales to everyone born after the year 2000.

The radical health proposal would see younger generations, and all future generations, forbidden to use tobacco products forever.

The plan, promoted by a university professor from Singapore, has won praise from Tasmania’s anti-smoking lobby groups.

Quit Tasmania, the Cancer Council and the Asthma Foundation said the proposal had merits and should be further investigated.

Professor Jon Berrick, from the National University of Singapore, is visiting Tasmania to promote his vision, which he hopes will end nicotine addiction.

Prof Berrick said Tasmania would be an ideal place to trial the proposal because the state had a good record of bipartisan political support on tobacco controls.

He has taken his plan to anti-smoking groups as well as scientists and researchers at the Menzies Research Institute.

Prof Berrick said the idea was a “decisive measure”, unlike other anti-smoking moves that only “chipped away” at the problem.

“Once you do this, the end is in sight,” he said.

Prof Berrick said the ban would rely on proof of age, either through drivers licences that showed people’s birthdates or some other proof of ID card.

Cancer Council Tasmania CEO Simon Barnsley said the initiative would be “very worthwhile” to investigate.

“It’s quite a different way to do it because you build an expectation of change, you don’t set out to achieve it through prohibition,” he said.

He supported the idea of a Tasmania-only trial as it would be hard to achieve nationally.

Prof Berrick, whose background is in science and mathematics, has formulated the idea with a group of experts in Singapore.

He said a 2007 survey of awareness of lung cancer in Singapore included questions about the idea.

“The first thing we asked people was how important they feel it is to prevent children ever taking up smoking and we got over 98 per cent who said it was very important or important,” Prof Berrick said.

“The next question we asked was what about this particular proposal for those born from 2000 forever. From the population as a whole we got over 70 per cent support and for smokers we got 60 per cent support.”

Prof Berrick said many smokers regretted they had started smoking and certainly did not want to inflict it on their children.

Quit Tasmania executive director Michael Wilson said on face value Prof Berrick’s proposal seemed a great idea and fairly easy to administer, but he said there were issues with ID.

“You hear lots of stories in the community about fake ID to me that seems to be the only thing that would be a hindrance,” he said.

Using Tasmania as a pilot had merit, Mr Wilson said, as it had been used for other health pilot studies. But he said it was easy to buy cigarettes interstate.

Asthma Foundation of Tasmania CEO Cathy Beswick said the proposal was worth investigating.

She said tobacco smoke was harmful to people with asthma and respiratory conditions and the foundation was interested in any measure that would reduce or limit the number of people who smoked.

Tasmania’s Director of Public Health, Roscoe Taylor, said a report published in 2008 found that in 2005 tobacco use accounted for $1.836 billion in costs for tobacco-related healthcare and $31.5 billion in indirect social costs in Australia.

He said the most recent figures showed that between 2003 and 2007 an average of 471 Tasmanians died each year due to tobacco use.

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