Lifting the smoking age and banning cigarettes in prison are two major initiatives highlighted for investigation in a new government drug strategy.
The ACT Drug Strategy Action Plan was released for community feedback recently and highlighted 39 “priority actions” for the territory.
“Conduct research into the potential impact of raising the legal purchase age for tobacco,” was one of the listed actions, to be led by ACT Health.
“Consider the need for additional smoke-free areas, including smoke-free correctional facilities,” was another initiative, to be led by Health and ACT Corrective Services.
An ACT government spokesman said banning cigarettes in prison was a high risk initiative, which would be carefully managed over at least two years to prevent inmates rioting.
There has been some momentum to raise the smoking age to 21 in Australia, although the ACT government said it was too early to discuss specifics of the territory's proposal.
Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest and wife Nicola unveiled a major campaign late last year to drum-up support for a smoking age of 21, saying such a move could generate annual savings of $3.1 billion across Australia.
An ACT Health spokesman said the government would look at the best ideas to stop young Canberrans turning to cigarettes.
“As the plan is still at a preliminary draft stage, it is too early to discuss specific approaches to specific actions in the plan,” he said.
“This includes issues such as where new smoke-free areas may be located or changes to the age limitation on the purchase of smoking products.”
In 2015, ACT Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury said the government wanted to to eventually phase out smoking at Canberra’s Alexander Maconochie Centre.
"We've sought legal advice and are considering legislation, but experiences in other states show that these changes shouldn't be rushed through," he said.
"Before moving ahead with a total ban, we would need to actively offer support to detainees through quit programs and nicotine replacement."
The introduction of a smoking ban at Victoria’s Ravenhall prison sparked a massive and sustained riot in 2015.
It had been estimated that up to 85 per cent of Ravenhall inmates smoked before the ban was announced.
Careful steps would be taken to prevent a similar upheaval in the ACT, an ACT government spokesman said.
“The introduction of a smoke-free environment at the [prison] would see tobacco added to the list of contraband items, which are managed with ongoing security strategies," he said.
“Implementation of full smoke-free environment presents a number of high risks, particularly related to the order and security of the [prison] as highlighted by the 2015 Ravenhall riot in Victoria.”
Making Canberra’s prison smoke free would take at least two years and would require a significant amount of funding, the ACT government spokesman added.
The ACT drug strategy also highlighted a number of major initiatives related to alcohol consumption in the territory.
These included looking at ways to reduce the promotion of drinking at sporting events, and investigating the introduction of a minimum price for a standard drink.
“Interventions addressing alcohol consumption are a high priority,” the draft strategy read.
“Alcohol is a major contributor to death, disease, crime and violence, social problems, health services and emergency services use.”
The public can find the draft strategy on the ACT government’s Your Say website, with the deadline for comments closing on August 3.
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