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New WA laws to stop minors selling tobacco

AAP logoAAP 16/11/2016

Children will be banned from selling tobacco products under a proposal by the West Australian government aimed at reducing exposure to cigarettes, but the opposition has labelled the move a political stunt.

Health Minister John Day said WA could become the first state to make it illegal for employees under the age of 18 to sell tobacco products in retail outlets.

"Underage sales assistants are more likely to sell tobacco products to minors and they should not be put in this position in the first place," he said.

"The protection of children is our priority."

Other proposed changes include banning the sale of fruit and confectionery flavoured and split-pack cigarettes, stopping tobacco sales at music festivals and other events, and preventing tobacco purchases from being part of shopping reward schemes.

The state government also wants the display of graphic health warnings beside price signs for tobacco, and a ban on specialist retailers displaying tobacco products, which will be phased in over two years.

Most of the proposed provisions would have a six-month lead-in, Mr Day said.

But Labor health spokesman Roger Cook described the announcement as a political stunt.

"John Day can add these measures to the list former health minister Kim Hames talked about at the last election and then completely ignored," he said.

"I can't believe they would portray this stunt, on the second last day of parliament, as a serious response on tobacco reform.

"The only tobacco legislation passed in the life of this government was from (independent MP) Janet Woollard with our support."

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said while the legislative changes were welcome, they were long overdue.

"Although a very positive move, it is unfortunate that we have to wait until after the election to see them passed into law," he said.

Dr Miller said he hoped one day tobacco would be banned completely.

"Until then, we will continue to lobby government for further changes to tobacco supply, promotion and use," he said.

"It is still intolerable that security at WA hospitals, for example, fail to take action against those many people who choose to smoke, often within metres of hospital entrances."

In 2015, about nine per cent of people in WA aged 16 and over were daily smokers, compared to 16 per cent in 2004.

Cancer Council WA spokeswoman Kelly Kennington welcomed the announcement, saying tobacco was responsible for more drug-related hospitalisations and deaths than alcohol and illicit drugs combined.

"These proposed changes put the interests of children and public health over and above those of the tobacco industry and their profits," she said.

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