The Australian island state of Tasmania is seeking to ban young people from smoking cigarettes by preventing their sale to anyone born after the year 2000.
Tasmania, which has one of the highest rates of smoking among youth in Australia, would be the first place in the world to impose such an age-based ban.
The prohibition would take place when those people born after 2000 reach the age of 18 – thereafter the legal age to purchase would be raised each subsequent year (meaning they would never be able to legally buy smokes ever again on Tasmanian soil).
The motion, initiated by independent MP Ivan Dean, was unanimously passed by Tasmania's upper house. The law remains subject to approval by the lower house.
Similar measures are also being considered in Singapore and Finland.
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"I think an arbitrary ban on smoking would be very difficult to police," Michelle O'Byrne, the Tasmanian state’s health minister, told Australian media.
"However, saying that those people who sell cigarettes legally cannot sell cigarettes to a certain age is appropriate. We do it now. What the smoke-free generation would say is that, potentially, anyone from the year 2000 would not be able to buy cigarettes ever."
Anti-smoking activists hailed the proposed ban.
"It is time for us to be aspirational in our management of our health issues," said Simon Barnsley, a spokesman for the Cancer Council.
"It's time we started to lead the charge against tobacco for the future of our youth and the future of our health system."
Twenty-five percent of Tasmanian youth currently smoke, versus 20 percent for Australia as a whole, according to reports.
"This would mean that we would have a generation of people not exposed to tobacco products," MP Dean himself told media.
"It would be easier for retailers to enforce because when they ask for ID, all they would need to see if the person was born after the year 2000. As the generation reaches 18 years, there will be fewer of them smoking and while some of those first turning 18 might smoke, as time goes on fewer and fewer will."
However, retailers were upset by the proposed measure.
"There needs to be awareness and education programs rather than throwing the book at today's youth, said Russell Zimmerman of the Australian Retailers Association.
“It puts back virtually you into to a nanny state rather than allowing consumers to make their own, informed decisions."
Jeremy Rockliff, a spokesman for the opposition Liberal party, also blasted the motion.
"What's next, 50 lashes for people who break the rules?" said
However, another anti-smoking activist, Professor Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney, denied that such a ban was excessive or would lead to similar prohibitions on other unhealthy products, like alcohol and fatty foods.
"The risks of smoking are just so off the table ... We started banning tobacco advertising in 1976 and there has been no other commodity where there has been anything like a serious move to do what we have done with tobacco," he said, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Just last week, Australia’s High Court upheld a very tough law on cigarette packaging – packs would be wrapped in drab olive with no logos and feature graphic photos of the health dangers related to smoking.