The Tasmanian Small Business Council has criticised an international tobacco addiction expert’s support to raise the smoking age in the state to 21 years.

Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation director Ginny Chadwick visited Tasmania on Monday to persuade state members of Parliament to support a bill from Windermere independent MLC Ivan Dean to raise the smoking age.

She said Tasmania could lead the nation by enshrining the bill into legislation.

“The reality is Tobacco 21 laws aren’t designed to restrict youth access to tobacco; they are designed to restrict tobacco sellers’ access to youth,” Ms Chadwick said.

Tasmanian Small Business Council chief executive Robert Mallett said the bill was an attack on state retailers.

He said Ms Chadwick’s comment on the bill showed it would not prevent access to tobacco by young people.

Mr Mallett said the recent Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey detailed that a majority of young people who had smoked cigarettes got them through family and friends.

“Lifting the legal smoking age to 21, and demonising small businesses who already do the right thing by not selling cigarettes to young people, won’t change this,” Mr Mallett said.

He said businesses were open to a reduction of the smoking rate in Tasmania, including through the regulation of alternative smoke-free products like e-cigarettes.

“Regulation of the sale and use of smoke-free products in Tasmania would allow responsible local small retailers that already sell tobacco products in to reduce their sales of traditional cigarettes, without negatively affecting their economic viability”, Mr Mallett said.

Mr Dean’s bill is yet to be debated in Parliament.

Extracted from The Examiner