What’s next for tobacco control? A smoke-free generation 302



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Each year 60,000 Australians and millions throughout the world die from cigarette smoking. One billion people are projected to die of tobacco-related disease by 2050. This is a national and international scandal.

The tobacco-free generation is a key “endgame” reform, recognised internationally as part of a suite of measures to finally eliminate tobacco smoking. If legislation currently before the Tasmanian parliament passes, the state could be the first in the world to prohibit the sale of tobacco to people born after 2000.

Before we get into the detail of the proposal, let’s take a closer look at the problem.

Nicotine is a highly addictive drug which is usually obtained through inhaling the smoke of slow-burning tobacco leaves, plus many additives. According to the United States Surgeon General, modern tobacco products are more toxic and addictive than ever, due to cigarette engineering by the tobacco industry, and more likely to cause cancer now than in the last century.

The addiction begins for most smokers as children and teenagers, but breaking the addiction is hard. Two thirds of these victims will die prematurely of disease related to their smoking habit, and the average life lost will be over ten years.

Smokers die of heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive airways disease, asthma and many cancers, above all, lung cancer. Lung cancer is almost exclusively caused by tobacco smoking and has a survival rate of less than 15%.

Why are smokers “victims”? Because they were targeted when young, at a stage when their brains were immature and especially vulnerable to nicotine. This is the core business plan of the tobacco industry, with a constant need for new addicts; they need to get their targets hooked very young.

The industry uses any tactic available to promote their product, and fights any attempt to constrain them. In the affluent West, including Australia, they use money to influence political parties directly, cozying up to individual politicians, in some instances to the point of corruption.

In developing countries, they shamelessly use tactics already outlawed in developed countries, and engage in intimidating legal actions. They finance “front organisations”, who then regurgitate industry mantras about “freedom of choice”, “nanny state”, or freedom of commerce for their “legal” but lethal product.

So, having set the scene, what is the tobacco-free generation legislation all about, and why Tasmania?

Tasmania has smoking rates 50% higher than elsewhere in Australia. Tasmania has widespread multigenerational poverty and social disadvantage, exactly the type of community especially susceptible to drug addiction in general, and tobacco-smoking in particular.

This leads to another twist or two in the cycle of deprivation: through the cost of the cigarettes, the high incidence of mental illness it initiates, long-term poor health in smokers and in babies born to smoking mothers.

Most anti-tobacco legislation has addressed the demand side of the problem:

  • increasing the price
  • banning advertising
  • displaying images that shock
  • using unattractive colours on the packaging.

All of these measures work to some extent, as do mass media campaigns and cessation support services, but mainly in middle class people. More is needed.

The tobacco-free generation is a supply side measure, but implements it in a way that is gradual, does not entrap or criminalise those already addicted, and is highly practical because the machinery to limit sales to young people under 18 is already in place and works well.

The onus is on the retailer not to sell or supply. Retailer compliance with the current law is 98% in Tasmania due to strong enforcement.

In practical terms what the tobacco-free generation legislation would do if passed by Parliament is to roll forward, from January 2018, the age that a young person can be sold cigarettes, so that anyone born in the 21st century will never get to an age at which it is legal.

At first that sounds startling, but we do know that hardly anyone takes up smoking in their 20s or beyond. Most addicted smokers would like to give up and regret starting. The tobacco-free generation is a very popular measure, in the general population, among smokers and young people.

The age at which young people started their addiction has risen gradually since the 1990s. The age at which smokers start tends to lag behind the “legal” age by about two years. This is because kids get their smokes from friends slightly older than themselves, less often from parents or shops.

Thus the older the age of legal sale, the older the new smokers; so if we can roll the age forward, there will be fewer smoking friends and fewer new smokers, and ultimately just no new smokers. That is what we hope for, and this is what we think is achievable. This of course is why the tobacco companies are screaming blue murder.

The tobacco-free generation is a cry from the heart from people who have had enough. Those backing the amendment include many Tasmanian health professionals and advocates who are fed up with the tobacco companies and their greed, and the complacency of some politicians in the face of so much avoidable suffering.The Conversation

Haydn Walters is Professorial Fellow at University of Tasmania.
Julia Walters is Senior Research Fellow, Primary Health Care/Cochrane Airways Australia Coordinator at University of Tasmania.
Kathryn Barnsley is PhD student and tobacco researcher at University of Tasmania.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

By Haydn Walters, University of Tasmania; Julia Walters, University of Tasmania, and Kathryn Barnsley, University of Tasmania


How would you feel about phasing smoking out of our culture? Would you support the idea of a smoke-free generation?


Guest Contributor

  1. If they can’t smoke cigarettes , they will always find something else to smoke – with very dire repercussions ….

    10 REPLY
    • get real….smoking is legal….kills no one but ourselves and back then we had no information it was dangerous to our health….government enjoyed the taxes from it to make you comfortable….enjoy my bad health…..your generation has warnings…you have ice etc that pays no tax…..grrrr get off your band wagon and enjoy my tax

    • Jan
      I smoked from 1964 to 1988. I was fully aware of the consequences and the health problems from smoking. Cancer has been linked to smoking for more than 70 years. It has also been linked to heart disease for over 100 years.

    • Ruth. Smoking was a lot more glamorous when we were young. Do you recall the ads for Peter Stuyvesant? One of the first I recall on TV. Hardly any opposition to smoking back in the day that I recall.
      I smoked up to 6 months before I had a triple bypass a year and a half ago.

    • Ruth I agree with you….I didn’t know back then….it was not advertised so well as today…the government has enjoyed the taxes which are huge….i’m sick of everyone taking it out on the smokers…we only hurt ourselves now that I know….ice and other illegal drugs hurt others and pay no tax…..I just get angry as we are the least to concern people….I agree with smoking bans in public places as we now know it’s not good…but when I was growing up the government said it was

    • Gregory Joseph Patterson
      I like the ads for Alpine Cool and the Malboro Man was my hero.
      It’s not that we didn’t know the health consequences. It was just that we thought we were indestructible and looked really cool with a fag in our mouth. LOL

    • I agree with you Jan. I was unaware of the dangers of smoking – even the Doctors smoked. They were widely advertised as relieving stress and many of us took it up to help with the stress of exams

    • Yes we did we did feel pretty cool lol Ruth Hourigan …. And go back then there were no warnings …., but there is now …., and yes it’s a personal choice ..,, it’s really silly to say that people will pick up a crack pipe …,, now knowing it’s been 15 yrs since I’ve had a smoke .,,, my health picked up …, but answering the comment I hope that cigarettes will be banned by then …. More money in people’ pockets …. And did any smokers that have given it up now find they can’t stand the smell of a cigarette lol good luck to anybody in the process of giving them up

    • Dosnt kill other people Jan Shepherd. Think again. I worked in the Industry and one of my Dear friends who didn’t smoke inhaled it from us smokers in the “smoke” room. She had now passed away. She was 70 and was on Oxygen for the last 10 years of her life 24/7. Do fint5 talk about what you dont know. Yes im my younger days we didnt know how it would do us harm but today WE DO.I HATE being around smokers cant stand the smell of it anymore and yes today there is poisons in it. I know because it has a different smell. And YES I was a smoker and LOVED Smoking

  2. It would be a wonderful world, but it’s a freedom of choice & most teenagers think they look cool. (I don’t think so)

  3. Just ban it all together, but remember smoking is an addiction and smokers will probably tar and feather the pollies who take if off them. The trouble with prohibition of any product is that people will find a way to get what they want and that will spark an illegal trade

    12 REPLY
    • Why should they ???? If you can afford to
      Smoke and want to give it up you can afford the patches … It’s your responsibility … But the secret is YOU have to want to give it up

    • Faye….ot that easy…they say ciggies are worse than heroin to give up…..it is an addiction but at least they pay taxes for you….you really think the government wants to give that up????

    • Yes , there are tablets for quitting on PBS for seniors. I didn’t need the whole lot, I know a few who died of lung cancer , none smoked. I smoked from around 23 till 70, But I won’t cost Govt as I have private health & so far have only used it once. in 55 years. No one ever mentions the damage alcohol does to people & families . Ban it too.

    • Time will come when alcohol will be the culprit. …funny how the so called legal things are the blame for everything. ..the legal pay huge tax that has helped to give the lifestyle all these same people are criticizing. …how about they criticize the illegal crap like ice….grrrrrr…they need to get off their so perfect pedicals…I bet they aren’t perfect easy….at least smokers paid taxes

    • I have been a smoker for 50 yrs. Have given up 5 times its not easy. All the helps only work for a time. The most critical people have never been there . A minority group have rights too.
      I have never cost the health system except pay in my taxes
      It does not affect any body else. I have seen alcohol destroy whole families

  4. I have smoked since 14 yrs of age….we had no warnings then and I am now 60…..it is hard for us and the government now (who have taken a huge amount of tax from us stupid smokers) say it’s bad….it’s ok for young ones to now criticize us but hell….we have more than payed for it both physically and by our money……can buy ciggies o/s for $2….we pay $30….been like that for yrs….don’t criticize us….we didn’t know….we have payed a huge amount on tax so i’m sick of hearing that we will cost this generation to look after us….we got you here and a lot is from cigarettes, we weren’t aware but i’ sure the government knew what we were doing to ourselves before we were told…they told us it was good….

    5 REPLY
    • I see alcohol as a worse proble, drink driving, violence because of alcohol, alcoholism a much bigger problem.

    • The government will loose too much tax revenue if they ban it altogether and as more give up due to the cost the government will put up the tax to try and keep the same amount coming in. More and more will buy the cheaper chop chop and illegal tobacco will become more accepted among smokers.

    • That is so true Halina Richie …. But it breaks my heart seeing my sister with emphysema …. But it’s her choice and still she smokes …. My uncle died of cancer of the mouth he always had a smoke hanging out of his mouth …, just a shame there was no warning while we were growing up .

  5. How about we get rid of all the chemicals that are in our food, water, air and soil. Funny how the incidence of cancer is so much higher since chemicals were introduced. If you smoke pure organically grown tobacco there is no evidence of cancer.

    4 REPLY
    • Water is a chemical . I think we need that. Air and so I and food and the human body are made up of chemicals. . Organically grown tobacco? ???

    • That is not true actually, smoke causes cancer regardless of source, commercial cigarettes just happen to be that much worse and that does not even cover the subject of emphysema which is caused by any foreign substance in the lung just as deadly and probably more costly in dollar terms as the sufferer may require treatment over many years

    • Everyone says smoking causes cancer . I’m one with that bad filthy habit that so hard to break . Yet my sister who has never smoked or drank in her life has just been diagnosed with breast cancer . So how do we explain that . Life is unfair sometimes !

  6. I dont smoke but I fell the billions spent on persecuting smokers could have been better spent elsewhere.

    3 REPLY
    • I agree, I think in future generations it will die out, but I see alcohol & drugs a much worse problem for future generations.

    • I agree Gregory education can only help ….. Alcohol is the biggest and worst drug of all …, so many families ruined by it and lives ….. Drugs well I guess there will always be drugs one will be replaced by another … Now it’s ice that’s taken over ..,, only continuing education while kids are young will help I feel ….

  7. Wouldn’t it be great.
    But it will never happen. Too much money to be made by both private companies and government.

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