Tobacco Products Regulation (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

14 Nov 2007 archivespeech

This speech is to indicate that the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK will not be supporting the Tobacco Products Regulation (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (11:48): This bill could be described by some as reform, a word that I think is often over-used. When a sensible, commonsense person looks at it, I think the question they would ask is: what difference will these measures make on behaviour in terms of smoking uptake?

Essentially, what the bill aims to do is remove the ability of tobacco purchases to contribute to the collection of reward points in schemes including FlyBuys and petrol discounts; and the other part of it is to reduce the accessibility of tobacco products through purchases via vending machines. We consulted with a few stakeholders who will be affected by this legislation. The State Retailers Association says that it does not oppose the bill.

A letter from John Brownsea dated 2 October states:

As regards reward points (petrol discount) on tobacco sales, the removal of that concession will have an impact on retailers and then the two major supermarkets primarily. The vending machine issue does not affect any of our members so we have no comment...

The Hotels Association also is not opposed, although it says that it does not believe that it will have a great effect on reducing the number of minors purchasing tobacco products because minors are already forbidden by law from entering gaming areas, and that these changes would just create further work for hotel staff in operating the vending machines. It is also not opposed to restrictions on the relationship between tobacco products and loyalty schemes. However, the Foodland group (which was one of the groups most impacted upon by the changes to government regulations stipulating the way in which their tickets are displayed) is quite irritated. Some months ago the government changed the laws and came up with some options which I think are somewhat pedantic. Originally it intended to go down the path of insisting on a standardised font, which was Times New Roman.

What evidence the government has that a standardised font and all the colour of the tickets must be identical (that is, white) is beyond me. I will put that on the record as a question about which I will seek from the government a response concerning any evidence that that will make a difference to the uptake of smoking among minors. In doing so, I would require some sort of solid research, not something involving a Mickey Mouse study or some bright idea that someone had at 3 o'clock in the morning. Quite frankly, these things do have an impact on organisations. While it is all very well for the government to say, 'We are changing the way that tobacco products can be displayed,' and so forth, it is not contributing anything towards the cost of implementing those changes.

That change I just referred to was borne largely by the Foodland supermarket chain, which is largely independent, with a number of family owned supermarkets, and that has been at some expense. They were notified several months ago, and I believe the effect of those regulations came in on 1 November. I wrote to the minister on that issue, and I am grateful for her response. There was another round of consultation with retailers, in particular between August and September, and I believe that the issue that is before us was also consulted on. I will put this as a formal question: I would also like the minister to list by name each of the organisations which provided a response to that consultation and what its concerns were. I would expect that particularly the Foodland group would say to the government exactly what it hast said to us, which is that this new round will cause it some considerable expense. If it had been done as one package of 'reforms' it may have been a little easier for it, but for the government to continually drop in these bills which in reality cost a lot for retailers but do not have much impact on smoking rates I think is most unfair.

I turn to the matter at hand in the bill, and I will read into the record the response I had from Foodland. This is from Mr Russell Markham, who is the Chief Executive of the Foodland group. He writes: I respond on behalf of The Foodland group in South Australia to the changes that the State Government currently proposes to the Tobacco Products Regulation Bill 2007. All Foodland stores are independently owned and operated, and we currently have 98 supermarkets trading in metropolitan and regional South Australia. We are a diverse group resulting in our stores using up to eight different types of checkout software systems at the point of purchase. Approximately 70% of our retailers are involved in a form of loyalty program which usually gives a saving on fuel purchases. Should loyalty systems on tobacco be banned our software systems will require reprogramming or even replacement at the retailers cost.

There is no easy way to complete reprogramming as a group and it therefore becomes a store level issue which is a considerable inconvenience to the retailer. Register dockets will be required to print more information to separate these items from the standard grocery bill. Dockets would be longer and as an aside we would use more paper rolls in our registers. It is estimated that conversion to a new system would cost an average of $36,000 per store which is additional expense carried by the retailer to implement another government initiative. We are currently converting our cigarette display areas now to comply with the last changes by the minister. This new proposal would necessitate the changing of existing point of sale signage referring to loyalty schemes, again additional expense involving printing new internal posters and employing sign writers to repaint the exterior signage on our buildings.

Then he poses a question which I will ask the minister to formally respond to as well: Is the government proposed to contribute some or all of this additional cost? If so, how much? I suspect the answer will be 'zero'. He continues: In regards to vending machines, we do support the proposed legislation to restrict access. It is hypocritical to push regulations and fines on our retailers and at the same time allow unlimited access on vending machines to minors. I think he does not quite understand that that is not actually the case at the moment anyway. He continues: As you are aware we can be severely fined for supplying cigarettes to minors in our stores. In conclusion if cigarettes are a major health issue then they should be totally banned.

That is a view shared by a lot of people who are frustrated with continual tinkering with tobacco legislation. The letter continues: The ongoing amendments to the tobacco laws inconvenience supermarket retailers and we believe do not address the core issue of the addiction. We note that there have been minimal disruptions to the dedicated retailers such as Smoke mart in the new legislation. I am personally a non smoker and do not support the habit of smoking but it is still my view that the banning of loyalty schemes will not reduce the number of current and potential smokers. It is not the primary reason why a smoker purchases their product— which I strongly agree with— and they will adjust their method of purchasing to any new restriction. I hope you understand the position of the Foodland group in regards to these changes and we will continue to closely monitor the progress of this bill in the coming weeks.

I note that the Hon. Sandra Kanck has filed some amendments to this bill. I intend to speak later on her particular measures in private members' business but will briefly say that we will be supporting the Hon. Sandra Kanck's amendments, which I understand are identical to the bill that she also proposes as a private member, and I will outline my reasons for that in that speech.

As a non-smoker and someone who loathes cigarette smoke, abhors the sight of young people smoking and knows what they are going to regret perhaps 20 or 30 years down the track, I believe that we should do everything we can to prevent youth smoking but, quite frankly, this measure is a complete nonsense, and we will not be supporting this bill.