Tasmania: Legislation drafted to implement a Tobacco Free Generation

Kathryn Barnsley

Breathe Well, Centre of Research Excellence for Chronic Respiratory Disease and Lung Ageing, University of Tasmania

In 2012 we reported that Tasmania was leading the way towards an endgame for smoking, by developing mechanisms for implementing the Tobacco Free Generation proposal (TFG).

Those who are familiar with the Tobacco Free Generation proposal by Professor Jon Berrick and his colleagues, will be aware that the tobacco-free generation proposal advocates legislation precluding the sale and supply of tobacco to individuals born after the year 2000.

In 2012 Hon Ivan Dean, a member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council moved a motion in support of this proposition, which was carried unanimously.

The Minister for Health, Michelle O’Byrne at that time was interested in the idea and referred it to the Children’s Commissioner for consideration and consultation with the generation of children who would be affected by the proposal. The idea attracted international attention.

There was a change of government in May 2014, and the Labor/Green government lost the election. The Liberal Party (which in Australia is the more conservative party) is in power for the next four years. The Report of the Children’s Commissioner was not released before the election, and a new Commissioner was not appointed until recently. Liberal governments in Tasmania have a good record on tobacco control legislation, and initiated the measure to make it illegal for tobacco companies to tell “lies” about the health effects of tobacco.

In September Hon Ivan Dean announced that he would introduce a Private Members Bill to put the Tobacco Free Generation idea back on the agenda. It is unusual for Private Members Bills to emanate from the Tasmanian Upper House, the Legislative Council, and it will have to be approved in that chamber before going to the House of Assembly, controlled by the Government.

If passed, the law would come into effect in 2018 and over time the sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products would be gradually phased out. It is important to emphasise that smokers would not be criminalised or penalised. It is the commercial sales of cigarettes that would be phased out over the next forty years, and only the sellers would be subject to penalties.

The tobacco industry have tried to paint this proposal as “prohibition” and argue that black markets will emerge, and compared it to alcohol prohibition in the USA in the 1930s. Imperial Tobacco have responded to newspaper stories by hyping up the black market arguments, somewhat of an irony considering their convictions for smuggling in Canada and lambasting by a Parliamentary Committee in the UK.

The process is that the Bill will be tabled in the Tasmanian Parliament in November 2014 and will be debated next year – 2015, when the community and politicians have had time to consider it. The Bill, Clause Notes and Fact sheet will be able to be viewed on the Tasmanian Parliament website in late November 2014. It will be titled Public Health Amendment – Tobacco Free Generation Bill 2014.