The Tasmanian Government is rejecting calls for tighter regulation of the poppy industry, despite a sharp rise in thefts of potentially-lethal capsules.
The latest Justice Department figures show almost 3,000 capsules were stolen last financial year, an increase of more than 400 per cent on the previous period.
The State Government says that amounts to less than one poppy per hectare, and the Tasmanian poppy industry is already one of the most tightly-supervised in the world.
But the Greens MP Kim Booth believes the rise in thefts warrants action.
“And that might include more warning signs, perhaps better fencing and just some locations where you shouldn’t be putting free-grown poppies if they’re in reach of younger people or anyone in the community,” he said.
“They are a bit like putting out a lolly jar for people who want to experiment and the consequences, or course are terminal and tragic.”
Of the 19 crop breaches last financial year, just four were considered deliberate and referred to police for investigation.
Keith Rice of Poppy Growers Tasmania says it is thought tourists were responsible for the rest.
“They are taking them more for their attraction and uniqueness because they’re not grown anywhere else in Australia,” he said.
The poppy industry plans to launch a social media campaign later this year, highlighting the dangers of poppy consumption, with a particular emphasis on young people aged between 15 and 25.
Jan Smith from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council says it is a welcome move.
“But I think that’s something that we need to not do in just a reactive way,” said Ms Smith.
“We need to think about what should be going on in the long term to educate people, to make sure the information is out there, that it’s not a safe option to turn a raw poppy into a product that you then consume.”
The dangers associated with poppy theft were highlighted last November when a 17-year-old died from drinking tea he had brewed from Tasmanian poppies.