Tasmania, Australia, has taken a stand against smoking by proposing a ban prohibiting anyone born after the year 2000 from smoking cigarettes. This approximately 500,000-person state is setting a precedent that we in America need to emulate.
DON’T LET THEM START
The idea is to keep younger generations from ever being able to legally buy and smoke cigarettes in Tasmania. Once those born after 2000 turn 18, the legal age to buy cigarettes will be raised each year. It has already been unanimously passed by Tasmania’s upper house and is awaiting approval from its lower house.
“Tobacco smoking remains the single greatest preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia. The prevalence of smoking in Tasmania remains higher than the national prevalence,” according to the Tasmanian Tobacco Action Plan for 2011-2015.
Just under 16 percent of Tasmanians age 14 and over are smoking cigarettes, which is why the Tasmanian government is “committed to reducing smoking prevalence in the Tasmanian population and preventing young Tasmanians from taking up smoking” in their Investment in Tobacco Control 2010-2011.
The ban will be a stepping-stone for others like it around the world – hopefully in America. One in five adults (compared to Tasmania’s one in four) smoke (a number that seems less severe until you consider America’s much-larger population), and 443,000 Americans die of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke each year.
For years, studies have shown that more than 7,000 harmful chemicals found in secondhand smoke increase a plethora of major health issues, ranging from cancer to respiratory illness.
The total annual public and private health care expenditures caused by smoking in the U.S. totals $96 billion. $30.9 billion of that consists of Medicaid payments paid through taxes. This means even non-smokers fund the damage control.
Professor Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney said, “If tobacco were invented tomorrow, there wouldn’t be any government in the world that would allow it to be sold if they knew what they knew about it now. I think as a society, we need to work out what we’re going to try and do about that. Are we going to say it’s inevitable, or are we going to try and act?”
As someone with asthma, this ban is a godsend and an encouraging step in the right direction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the choking stench of cigarette smoke suddenly throw me into a coughing fit. It’s even more frustrating when it happens to my younger siblings, who are also asthmatic.
So why is something this detrimental legal? Why does Hawai‘i enforce a fireworks ban but not a cigarette one? How does a 20-feet-away smoking law save us from secondhand smoke? It doesn’t. None of it makes sense.
It’s amazing how a country famous for its freedom is being so controlled by something as repulsive as tobacco companies. Tasmania is taking a step in the right direction, and it’s time we follow.