Oncologists want smoking age raised to 21
Australia’s peak oncology groups have thrown their support behind a campaign to raise the legal age 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) believe 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% of all adults start smoking before they turn 21. We also know 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,” said the Chair of the MOGA, Dr Chris Karapetis.
The President of the PCPA, Dr Christopher Steer who is based in regional NSW, said the smoking rates among disadvantaged youth was alarmingly high across Australia and rates of smoking in regional Australia was significantly higher than in the cities.
Dr Karapetis, who is based in Adelaide, hoped all of the South Australian parties committed to this simple policy step change before the election in March.
“We know 15,000 Australians die from smoking related illnesses every year,” Dr Karapetis said.
“In South Australia, we see 1,140 tobacco attributed deaths every year. If this policy can stop one young South Australian from taking up smoking and becoming hooked for life, then it is definitely worth pursuing.”
In South Australia, only 1.4% of 12 to 15 year olds were current smokers but this spiked to 6.4% for 16 and 17 year olds.
“As oncologists, we see, too often, the horrible and deadly impact of what happens when young people become addicted to nicotine,” Dr Steer 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.”
“Smoking is the most preventable cause of cancer in Australia,” said Dr Karapetis. “We have a duty of care to our young people to do all we can to protect them and their families from unnecessary suffering and death.”
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