Teens smoking rates higher than average
Queensland teenagers were taking up smoking at a higher rate than the national average because retailers who sold cigarettes to minors were not regularly monitored, according to the Queensland Cancer Fund (QCF).
In a bid to put further pressure on the state government to tighten its tobacco laws, the QCF said 25.6 per cent of 12 to 17-year-olds in Queensland had smoked cigarettes monthly, compared with a national average of 24.5 per cent.
"Our smoking rates for children are higher than the national average and we need to do something about it," QCF executive director Jeff Dunn said.
Releasing new figures, Dr Dunn said almost 60 per cent of tobacco retailers in the state sold cigarettes to 16 year-olds in a supervised study of more than 1,000 retail outlets.
Convenience stores and newsagents were the least compliant with the state's tobacco legislation, with 65 per cent of attempted purchases by the 16-year-olds being successful.
Large supermarket chains performed better but 38 per cent of them also sold cigarettes to minors.
The north Queensland city of Mackay had the best results with 97 per cent of retailers not selling tobacco products to minors and the Gold Coast scored the worst where 85 per cent of retailers surveyed sold cigarettes to those under 18.
Dr Dunn described the results as "disturbing", given there had been only six prosecutions of tobacco retailers for selling cigarettes to underage purchasers.
"Approximately 60 per cent of retailers in Queensland are selling tobacco products to minors," he told reporters.
"They are the cancer patients of the future."
Dr Dunn called for the state government to set up an ongoing program of test purchases to monitor compliance with tobacco legislation and to emulate the kind of success achieved with similar programs run in NSW and Tasmania.
The alternative to government-enforced tobacco legislation compliance was to licence retailers to sell tobacco in the same way pubs and clubs were licensed to sell liquor, Dr Dunn said.
The Queensland Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Supply Act was introduced in 1998 and was currently under review with the public consultation period due to end on July 31.