Oncologists want legal age for buying tobacco raised

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Australia’s peak oncology groups are supporting a campaign to raise the legal age at which a young person can buy cigarettes in Australia from 18 to 21.

The Medical Oncology Group of Australia (MOGA) and the Private Cancer Physicians of Australia (PCPA) say many Australians being treated with smoking-related illnesses would not be suffering now had they been prevented from taking up the deadly habit when they were young.

“We know from research that 95 per cent of all adults start smoking before they turn 21,” MOGA Chair Dr Chris Karapetis said. “We also know that if you can prevent young people from taking up the deadly habit by the time they turn 21, the chances of them ever smoking at all is very low.

PCPA President Dr Christopher Steer, based in regional NSW, says the smoking rate among disadvantaged youth is alarmingly high across Australia and rates of smoking in regional Australia significantly higher than in the cities.

“As oncologists, we see too often the horrible and deadly impact of what happens when young people become addicted to nicotine,” he said. “We know all governments are fighting very hard to warn them against the harms of smoking, but sometimes we simply need to take the ability to form the habit out of their hands.”

Philanthropist and mining magnate Andrew Forrest launched a major lobbying campaign last year to convince federal and state governments to raise the legal tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21. South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has pledged to raise the legal smoking age if his party wins the balance of power at the upcoming state election.