A plan by the Tasmanian Government to lift the legal smoking age as high as 25 could leave the state with the strictest tobacco laws in the world, Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) says.
The Tasmanian Government revealed an ambitious plan that could result in Tasmania becoming the only state in Australia to raise the legal age for smoking above 18.
It is part of a five-year preventative health plan to try and make Tasmania Australia's healthiest state by 2025.
The strategy has a specific focus on reducing Tasmania's high obesity levels and smoking rates.
About 20 percent of Tasmanians smoke, the second-highest rate in Australia, and Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the Government wanted to stop young people lighting up.
"We are proposing that we lift the legal smoking age potentially above 18, to potentially 21 or potentially 25," he said.
"[In Tasmania] we have unacceptably high rates of smoking, we know that every cigarette is doing you damage and, despite our best efforts through public health over a number of years, we're still nowhere near we're we need to be.
"We have over 20 percent of Tasmanians regular smokers, we have very high rates of youth smoking and one-third of young teenage mothers smoking during pregnancy.
"We've got to own up to this and be willing to have a genuine community debate."
Step in right direction
In Australia, people under 18 cannot buy, smoke or possess cigarettes and health professionals agreed raising the legal age, especially in Tasmania, was a step in the right direction.
CLA Chief executive Bill Rowlings said it was a surprising move to look at tobacco laws without considering other health factors.
"If you're going to look at what age people are entitled to do things, you've got to look at driving and at drinking alcohol and other measures," he said.
"If this is a health-based initiative, the big issue at the moment is domestic violence, and domestic violence is far more driven by alcohol-related problems then it is by tobacco.
"I think we should have a very broad-ranging debate on what the proper ages are for various activities."