Austria has one of the highest rates of smoking among teenagers and young adults in Europe, with 52 percent of men aged 18 to 28 smoking, and 34 percent of women.
Only Greeks, Bulgarians and Latvians smoke more than Austrians, according to a 2012 Eurobarometer study.
Austria is one of the last countries to allow smoking from the age of 16. Karmasin told the Austria Press Agency that she has already been in talks with Austria’s provincial governors on changing the law as part of the Youth Protection Act.
A survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 27 percent of Austrian 15-year-olds smoke at least once a week, more frequently than any other children in the OECD area – something Karmasin said was “unacceptable”.
She said that a ban on smoking for under-18s would send an important signal, although she didn’t elaborate on what the consequences would be for those who break the law.
Austria is one of the countries in western Europe where cigarettes are cheapest. The country has a deeply entrenched smoking culture, and a general ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants doesn’t come into force until May 2018. Meanwhile, there is a ban on vaping products for people under 18.
Karmasin tried to bring in a smoking ban for under-18s two years ago, but it was shot down by Vice Chancellor and ÖVP head Reinhold Mitterlehner. He said such a measure was “not necessary”. However, Karmasin is optimistic that she can get the backing for a ban this year, and said that the “health argument” trumps all others.