Prohibition returns

Contrary to some excitable headlines, Tasmania has not banned the sale of cigarettes to anyone born in the 21st century. Such a move has been proposed, but it is most unlikely that the Australian state’s Lower House will allow it to become law. Nevertheless, it is another sign that anti-smoking campaigners are ready to come out of the closet and admit that they are prohibitionists. For decades, any suggestion that advocates for a ‘smoke-free world’  secretly wanted to criminalise the sale of tobacco were met with denial and protestation. This was not a witch-hunt against smokers, they said, only a campaign for better education, or restricting advertising, or protecting bar-staff, or saving the children.

The Tasmanian ruse, which was first mooted in Singapore, retains a ‘think-of-the-children’ element by forbidding those born after the year 2000 from purchasing tobacco products. Since the eldest of these people are currently twelve years old, this is not immediately controversial, but in a few years time it will mean prohibition for the first wave of adult consumers. This crucial fact seemed to escape some Tasmanians, like the gentleman who told ABC News that the proposal "definitely has my support mate because I believe that children shouldn't be smoking." This sentiment is, of course, besides the point. The real question is whether future generations should be treated like children forevermore; the Peter Pans of tobacco control.

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