Tobacco Products Regulation (Further Restrictions) Amendment Bill

14 Oct 2004 archivespeech

A speech in relation to the Tobacco Products Regulation (Further Restrictions) Amendment Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I indicate that, first and foremost, this bill is a conscience vote for all Liberal Party members. Therefore, some of the views I express may be purely my own. I am aware that a number of Liberal Party members will be speaking, and that we may also be proposing amendments to the bill. However, I am the lead speaker for the Liberal Party on the bill in this chamber.

Smoking has had a long history of reform throughout the world, and I mention the following facts as a brief reminder. In 1954 the British Medical Journal published a paper which confirmed the link between smoking and lung cancer. In 1962 the AMA called for restrictions on tobacco advertising. In 1972 the commonwealth forced tobacco companies to print warnings on cigarette packets. In 1973 to 1976 we had advertising on TV and radio phased out. In 1983 the Tobacco Institute of Australia placed a newspaper advertisement stating that there was no proof of causation of even one single death from cigarette smoking, which is quite extraordinary.

In 1986 in South Australia the Tobacco Products Control Act was passed which restricted advertising and sale. In 1986 we saw smoking banned on domestic flights. In 1988 there was a ban on smoking in Australian Public Service offices. In 1989 Living Health sponsorship replaced tobacco advertising. In 1994 there was an advertising ban on billboards. In 1999, 74 per cent of Australian workplaces had a total smoking ban, and in 2000 we had smoke-free dining in South Australia. So, it has taken quite some time from the initial evidence of the dangers of smoking for changes to take place that recognise how poisonous this practice is.

My one small confession to the chamber is that in my early 20s I was somewhat of a social smoker, but I am glad that I did not take it up any earlier because, as we have heard from members here and in the other place, it is very difficult. In my former life as a physio, I worked at the repatriation hospital. A number of veterans had taken up smoking in the trenches. They were actually given cigarettes to keep them occupied. The vision of bilateral amputees or people with tracheostomies having a smoke outside through their `trachy' hole is one that will forever remain in my mind.
Some comparisons have been made between obesity and smoking. We currently have an epidemic in that area and we recognise that we need to make some changes to counteract that. Of course, we know that smoking one cigarette does you damage, but dealing with obesity and people's food consump¬tion is more difficult. However, I note that smoking has become less fashionable and more antisocial over time.

Mr John Menadue, who has been driving the generational health reform, has stated that the biggest contribution that can be made towards improving the health of Australians is to curb tobacco smoking and obesity. He was cited in The Advertiser as recently as 4 September 2004. That has been recognised at the highest levels of the government's inde¬pendent advice which has been driving the reform of the health system.
A number of measures are to be commended. I will try to skip over those as briefly as possible, but I think they are worth mentioning. A smoking ban will apply to all enclosed workplaces and public areas, except hospitality; there will be bans on toy cigarettes and herbal cigarettes; smoking is to be prescribed within licensed hospitality venues; one bar in multi-bar venues is to be non-smoking; and for single-bar venues, 50 per cent of the floor area is to be non-smoking. I do not find some of the prescribing provisions satisfactory, having once been a passenger on a train to Melbourne and being seated in a so-called non-smoking carriage which was not fully enclosed but which had a door frame through which smoke passed to and fro.

The real changes will not take place until October 2007. From my own personal view, and in light of the evidence, I find the delay in a complete smoking ban completely unacceptable. In the first phase, any further exemptions for smoke-free dining will be removed and a number of issues concerning advertising and so forth and measures to cover sales to children will be dealt with; and then by 31 October 2007, under this current regime, all smoking in enclosed public areas will be banned. As stated by the previous speaker, it is important that the focus is on young people.
In her speech in the House of Assembly on 21 July 2004, the minister stated that the bill has three objectives: first, the prevention of uptake by minors; secondly, the prevention of relapse by those wanting to give up; and, thirdly, the protection of workers. National Youth Tobacco Free Day was held on 29 March, and an article published in The Advertiser produced some very alarming statistics on this public health matter. It stated that some 43 000 Australian children (the definition of that being children between 12 and 17) moved from experimenting with smoking to becoming regular smokers—and that has been estimated to translate to some 3 500 young people in South Australia. As a result of those 43 000 Australian children becoming regular smokers, 10 000 will die prematurely.

We know that nicotine is highly addictive and, on average, it takes 100 cigarettes to become dependent. Eight out of 10 adult smokers want to quit—I am sure that they all wish that they had never started in the first place. The minister in this place in his second reading explanation also cited some statistics which one would think would urge a speeding up of this important process. He said that 31 per cent of restaurant and bar workers in South Australia are exposed to passive smoking at work; 70 New South Wales bar workers die prematurely because of tobacco smoke at work; 30 South Australians die each week from smoking related diseases; smoking is responsible for 75 000 hospital bed days per year in South Australia; and 36 per cent of South Australians report that they have been exposed to passive smoking in a hotel or bar in the past two weeks.

As to the timing and process of this bill, it follows the work of the previous government, which brought in smoke free dining. I was working in Robert Lawson's office when this was occurring and saw the people involved meeting with minister Brown, who had established the Tobacco Advisory Council, chaired by Diana Hill. That body had already consulted extensively on a plan to announce changes in 2002. So this has had a long gestation.
The council was abolished by the new minister and replaced with a hospitality smoke free task force that reported in 2003. As reported by Greg Kelton in The Advertiser of 13 April this year, differences in opinion between the then Department of Human Services and Treasury, the latter perhaps being concerned about the loss of gambling revenue rather than loss of life, caused a delay in this legislation coming to the parliament. In her press release on Tuesday of this week, the minister announced that new restrictions on smoking will begin within weeks if the Rann government's tobacco control legislation is passed by the state's upper house this week. Some amendments were produced on Tuesday, so I hardly think that this chamber is to blame for the delay. This matter has been in gestation since 2002, delayed until its introduction this year by barneys between different ministers, so we are now debating it at the best pace we can, but we will not be responsible if it takes longer than some might like.

Undertakings were also given by the minister during debate in the House of Assembly on Tuesday—the amend¬ments to which I referred—in regard to display advertising. There was no consultation with the opposition over the break as was promised. We received it on Tuesday and in my view the response has been a lose/lose in that there is uncertainty for industry and in the meantime, until the new legislation is brought forward, South Australia will have absolutely no restrictions on tobacco advertising whatsoever.

In the Auditor-General's Report an issue was raised that there will be a 15 per cent fall in gaming machine expenditure in licensed clubs, hotels and the casino, commencing in 2007-08 when the smoking ban takes full effect. The assumed tax revenue loss is $41 million in 2007-08. Clearly the Treasurer has been placing gaming revenue ahead of people's health. Furthermore, I take issue with the joint press release in which ministers Foley and Stevens made the following statement on 27 November 2003 (and these claims have been made a number of times in the past 12 months):
The Rann government today unveiled the most significant package of smoking reforms in Australia and makes South Australia the first state in the nation to lock in dates to totally ban smoking in all enclosed workplaces and public areas and in pubs and clubs.

If that is not a piece of spin, I do not know what is. Locking in dates is not changing anything as we are talking about three years hence. I have a lovely press release by SmokeFree Australia, which is a coalition comprising the following (and members opposite might want to take note as some are probably good friends of theirs): Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union; Musicians' Union of Australia; Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance; Aus¬tralian Council of Trade Unions; Action on Smoking and Health Australia; The Cancer Council Australia; National Heart Foundation; Australian Council on Smoking and Health; Non-Smokers' Movement of Australia; and the AMA. (I understand that they are not quite so good to them and like to give them a bit of a kick every now and again when they do not approve their federal health policies, but I digress.)

I would like to quote from a press release dated 12 October 2004 in which this alliance is highly critical of New South Wales and Victoria. It is headed `NSW and Victoria announce smokefree pubs and clubs but delayed until 2007', and the subheading reads `Three-year wait will cause more injuries and claims'. I would like to point out to the council that New South Wales and Victoria, which have just made announcements, are listed for coming into effect for full bans by July 2007—some three months ahead of South Australia. So, we have effectively gone, through smoke-free dining, from the top of the class to getting the dunce's cap.

The Hon. G.E. Gago: We look forward to your amendment.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am sure you do. I will bring one and I will be interested to see whether you, as a health professional, support it.

The Hon. Caroline Schaefer: The problem is she will not be allowed.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: That is right—the honourable member will not be allowed to do what her conscience might tell her. I quote from this press release:

Tasmania will have total indoor bans in place by January 2006, Queensland by mid-2006 and the ACT by end-2006. . .

The consequences of three more years' delay will be many more deaths and illnesses of bar workers from secondhand smoke exposure in their workplaces.

So, once again we have the South Australian Labor Party not siding with workers. The press release goes on:

Research shows partial bans are ineffective, which is why total bans have been introduced earlier by other states.

For the record, I would like to state that this delay is too long. I believe that the government has dropped the bundle on this, and any claims that it might try to make that South Australia is a leader in this area are false. I seek leave to conclude my remarks later.