Australia could follow in New Zealand’s footsteps by introducing a total cigarette ban, according to leading Australian experts.
New Zealand will phase in a tobacco ban from next year, banning anyone born after 2008 from buying cigarettes and reducing the amount of nicotine in products sold in the meantime.
The ban is more far-reaching than anything Australia has done to combat smoking. Last year, individual jurisdictions such as Tasmania failed to gain enough support to raise the minimum purchase age to 21.
Kathryn Barnsley, a key campaigner behind the Tasmanian attempt, said she believed New Zealand’s action had whetted the appetite for a similar ban at home.
“Tasmania might be the first state to go for it, but I think the momentum is building across the country,” Dr Barnsley told news.com.au.
“Smokers clog up the hospital system, and with so much pressure on hospitals, states will look to reduce that.”
Changes in government at the federal level and in several states were an opportunity to reintroduce the idea, he added.
Dr Barnsley’s research indicates that up to 70 per cent of Australian non-smokers support a New Zealand-style cigarette phase-out.
The tobacco industry, however, would always campaign against it, he claimed, saying: “When you kill a large percentage of your customers, your survival depends on recruiting new ones.”
Coral Gartner, the director of the Tobacco Endgame Research Center, called on Australia to consider a ban.
“Having a clear path to phase out addictive tobacco cigarettes will bring many benefits to New Zealand and other countries considering it,” he told news.com.au.
He said retailers could “prepare” for the removal of the products and would put cigarettes on par with other deadly and addictive substances, he said.
Associate Professor Gartner said there were “other jurisdictions also considering these measures”, which she described as the “next stage of tobacco control policy”.
Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association founding president Colin Mendelsohn avoided full support but said there was “substance”.
The ban did not affect older smokers, who are most at risk, Dr Mendelsohn said.
“The problem we have is that older people don’t stop smoking,” he told 2GB.
“We’re not helping these people to give up cigarettes and they’re the ones who immediately see a pretty substantial risk of death and disease.”
Dr Mendelsohn said he was concerned about the ban’s potential to open up a “black market”, similar to the black market surrounding vaping, a claim which Dr Barnsley called “rubbish”.
“To have a black market you have to have demand, and if young people aren’t allowed to buy cigarettes, they won’t become addicted, so there’s no demand,” he said.
New Zealand’s laws do not affect vaping, of which Dr Mendelsohn is a key advocate. Vaping was the safest alternative for addicted smokers, he claimed.
“If you make the switch (to vaping) as a smoker, you will certainly improve your health and it is a valuable quit aid for many people,” he said.
“It doesn’t work for everyone. Young people should not use it. It’s not smoke-free and it’s not risk-free, but it’s a dramatic improvement if you used to smoke.”
Other experts say the health risks of vaping are not yet fully known.
Asked whether Australia would follow New Zealand’s lead, Dr Mendelsohn said: “Time will tell.”
Originally posted as Australia could follow NZ in total smoking ban