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Wednesday, 21 September 1983
Page: 1129


Dr CHARLESWORTH(7.45) — The Western Australian Government, to its great credit, has introduced legislation which will enforce its stance on limiting consumption of tobacco products. These products are unquestionably the greatest preventable cause of mortality, and morbidity in this country. It is estimated that tobacco is implicated in 16,000 premature deaths per year in Australia. The consequences of tobacco consumption are measured not only in terms of human tragedy to family and loved ones but also in economic terms. More than a billion dollars is the annual debt due to tobacco consumption. That includes loss of productivity, absenteeism, medical costs and fire damage.

The Western Australian Government has taken a three-pronged approach to this problem. Firstly, it has increased substantially the cost of tobacco products by acting on tobacco licensing. Overseas experience has shown that this is a very effective way of bringing down tobacco consumption. Its second initiative has been in the area of education. Statistics show that adult smokers are literally a dying breed. However, what is most disturbing is the increase in popularity of smoking amongst young people, many of who are addicted before they leave school. Therefore, the Western Australian Government's program is particularly aimed at the education of school children in regard to this addiction.

The third prong of the Government's attack is that on the advertising of tobacco products. It may be that that legislation is defeated in the upper House , this of course being due to the preposterous gerrymander that exists in Western Australia. However, the tobacco companies' assertions that their advertising is aimed only at changing brand preferences is absurd in the extreme . It cuts across the whole ethos of advertising. Of course, the irony of the present situation is the role of a number of sporting bodies which have become the salesmen and protaganists of the tobacco lobby. One only has to open newspapers in Western Australia to see pictures of sportsmen actively pushing the weed. Vested interests involved in the industry have thereby endeavoured to subvert the argument and to move it away from the health issue. Perhaps the stance of the Western Australian Government will encourage other States to move in this area because there is no doubt that knowing what we know now about the consequences of toabacco consumption, modern day Sir Walter Raleigh would have the same difficulty pushing his product as have the poppy growers of the Golden Triangle.