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Tobacco suit urged Tasmania News – The Mercury – The Voice of Tasmania

A LEADING tobacco expert believes states should sue tobacco companies for the health costs of treating smokers.

Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Professor Mike Daube said legal action was one of 10 measures states should adopt to become smoke-free by 2020.

Citing examples of US states which together have successfully sued tobacco companies, Prof Daube said it was a realistic option if Australian states worked in partnership.

“It’s probably not realistic for a state on its own because the tobacco industry has such big resources,” he said.

“But I think it’s feasible in Australia if all states band together and recognise they’re in it for the long haul.”

Speaking at the forum A Smoke-Free Community Is It Possible? in Hobart yesterday, Prof Daube said it was hard to put a price tag on potential lawsuits.

“But between the states I think we’d be talking about tens of billions of dollars,” he said.

Prof Daube also outlined other targets he believed would enable Australian states to become smoke-free, including tough enforcement on sales to minors, a ban on all tobacco PR and lobbying and increased funding of public education.

He defined smoke-free as smoking rates of 5 per cent or less for adults and 3 per cent or less for 12 to 17-year-olds.

In the latest Australian Health Survey results, Tasmania’s rate of smoking was 23.2 per cent, compared with the national average of 18.1 per cent.

Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne said becoming smoke-free would be a huge challenge for Tasmania.

“But it’s not impossible if commonwealth and state governments can work with the community,” she said.

She said the Government would support suing tobacco companies but more work was needed to set up a legal framework.

“I met earlier this year with anti-smoking campaigners from North America who have been advocating for this approach and I joined other state and territory health ministers to ask the Commonwealth to investigate the idea,” she said.

Heart Foundation chief executive Graeme Lynch said the Tasmanian Tobacco Action Plan had a target of reducing smoking rates to 10 per cent by 2020.

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