Tasmania could be the first state in Australia to ban the sale of cigarettes to people aged under 21.

A bill introduced last year by Independent Windermere member Ivan Dean will be debated when Parliament resumes on August 6.

Under the legislation, the legal age for Tasmanians to buy tobacco products would be lifted from 18 to 21`incrementally over three years.

It would be an offence for a retailer to sell tobacco products to people aged under 21 and for a person to provide false proof of age.

Mr Dean said he was hopeful his bill would be supported by the government.

“This is about saving lives, preventing people getting sick and dying prematurely,” Mr Dean said.

“We would be the first state in Australia to do this and I’m told everybody is sitting back watching us.”

Mr Dean said his late father was a chain smoker who suffered immensely before he died at a young age.

He has been working with Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation to get support for his bill.

Minderoo’s eliminate cancer adviser Bruce Mansfield said the so-called Tobacco 21 policy was gaining momentum.

“I’m hoping Ivan’s bill will be supported because it is a no-brainer in Tasmania where smoking levels are just behind the Northern Territory,” he said.

“It should have bi-partisan support.”

Tasmania’s smoking rate stands at 17.9 per cent compared with 14.5 per cent nationally.

About 32 per cent of Tasmanians aged between 18 and 24 smoke, compared with 10.7 per cent in the same age group in New South Wales.

Mr Mansfield said the Tobacco 21 movement restricting people aged under 21 from buying cigarettes was gaining momentum in the United States with 16 states introducing laws.

More than 45 per cent of the United States population is now covered by legislation restricting under 21s from purchasing cigarettes.,” he said.

“We can’t afford to be left behind on this – raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 will make it harder for our kids to get their hands on cigarettes during a time in their lives when they are vulnerable to the pressures of peers and sophisticated industry interference.

“Ninety-five per cent of smokers today started before the age of 21 and the likelihood is if they had made it to 21 without smoking, they never would have started.”

Extracted from Tasmanian Examiner