Raising the 'smoking age' to 21 - smart move or too nanny state?

The legal smoking age at present is at 18 years old.

Mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest has called on Australians to support his campaign to raise the legal smoking age to 21.

The current legal age Australians can begin smoking is set at 18 years old, but Forrest believes that peer pressure plays a big role in whether young people take up smoking cigarettes, and says raising the ‘smoking age’ means people will be able to make more mature and informed decisions.

“When you think that 15,000 Australians die each year from tobacco-related deaths and compare that with the horrific deaths of Gallipoli (8,000 deaths) and the average yearly deaths during the world wars, it is less than what is being caused by tobacco,” Forrest told the Daily Telegraph

Forrest put his own money into the $75 million dollar Eliminate Cancer Initiative, and now his  Tobacco 21 campaign has gained support from the Greens party and One Nation in Queensland.

Forrest also gives financial reasons for raising the legal age.

Ad. Article continues below.

“Every man, woman and child are basically funding the tobacco industry to the tune of $1,000 each,” he reckoned. “There is $31 billion in costs for palliative care and health care for tobacco-related cancer and only $10.3 billion in excise, so every year we write out a cheque for $20 billion.”

He has even enlisted the help of rugby league star Jonathan Thurston, who is also passionate about the cause.

“I have seen first-hand the damage cigarettes can inflict and I am more than happy to do anything I can do to stop people from smoking,” Thurston said.

But some people say that Forrest is wrong to target young people when it comes to smoking, noting that people are considered mature enough to drive at 16 and vote, drink alcohol and go to war at the age of 18.

If we’re going to put a ban on smoking, why not make it applicable to everybody, Rebecca Baker wrote in a column for News Corp when the idea was mooted in October.

Ad. Article continues below.

“There wouldn’t be a reasonable parent among us who’d want their kids to take up smoking, even if we did it ourselves as teenagers, we now know better,” she said. “It’s not something we want our kids to do. Ever. But I just don’t think legislating against it is the way to go.”

Some readers agreed with her.

“This is Australia, we ‘ban’ first and ask questions later,” one called Warwick commented on the column. “Civil liberties? What the hell are civil liberties?”

“When I started smoking the legal age was 16. I started at 13,” Michael added. “Stupid, I know, but just trying to prove that people will do what they want.”

Statistics show that Australians are already smoking 10 percent less today than they did two decades ago. But according to the Cancer Council, tobacco smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia and claims the lives of 15,500 Australians every year.

What do you think? Would you like to see the legal age of purchasing cigarettes increase to 21? Do you think it will help?