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Thursday, 28 May 1987
Page: 3502


Mr BALDWIN(1.35) —The honourable member for Fisher (Mr Slipper) is a hard act to follow but I intend to talk about something a little more specific. Recently I received-and I assume all other honourable members did too-a letter from an organisation called the Australian Jaycees. The letter accompanied a brochure advertising the Australian Jaycees five outstanding young Australian awards, 1987. It sought a nomination from me as a Federal member and, I assume, from all other members. Normally one would not have any problem with that sort of exercise. However, I was rather struck by the appearance of a logo of the Australian Jaycees' national sponsor, Amatil Ltd, on the front cover of the brochure. I am sure members are aware that Amatil is a corporation which is heavily involved in the production and marketing of tobacco products. I specifically mention W. D. & H. O. Wills Ltd and the Benson & Hedges Co. Ltd, two of Australia's major tobacco producers. I find something terribly incongruous about an organisation which, according to its published material, is concerned with `problems of universal significance' and `service to humanity' allowing itself to be associated with the tobacco industry. I remind honourable members of a number of features of the tobacco industry. The World Health Organisation has designated that smoking control:

. . . could do more to improve health and prolong life . . . than any other action in the whole field of preventive medicine.

In the context of the current drug offensive I also refer to the magnitude of smoking-related illnesses as part of the overall drug problem. According to statistics released by the Federal Department of Health in the year 1984, tobacco smoking was responsible for 16,350 deaths in that year. Compared with that, there were 230 deaths from all forms of opiates, including heroin, opium and morphine. The so-called hard drug problem is rightly a major priority, but it is massively overwhelmed by the magnitude of the health and social problems constituted by tobacco and tobacco-related illnesses. To look at it another way, roughly 80 per cent of all drug deaths were due to smoking-related illness. About 18 per cent were due to alcohol and alcohol-related illness and 2 per cent accounted for all the other drugs. That includes the opiates, but it also includes barbiturates and anything else that one cares to name. So we are really looking at a health problem and a drug problem of colossal significance. I think it is terribly ironical and most unfortunate that an organisation which apparently does quite a bit of good work in the community should allow itself to be associated with one of the major culprits in the promotion and selling of these particular products.

I make specific reference to the problem of smoking by the young. We have some statistics on that now which have emanated from a variety of sources, including the recent release of a survey by the New South Wales Drug and Alcohol Authority. In a recent article in the Medical Journal of Australia there are figures that indicate that something like one in three children become regular smokers by the age of 15, and about one in four smokers eventually die of smoking-related disease. That indicates the extent of the problem that we have with young smokers, and I might also add that there is a very serious problem with young women taking up smoking. In most teenage categories more young women than young men are smokers; more girls than boys.

I suppose it is fair to note at this point that Amatil is not the worst offender in this area. There are considerably worse offenders, particularly those companies that make the Peter Jackson and Alpine brands of cigarettes. There is no doubt that much of their advertising is very specifically targeted at the young through the association with rock groups and so forth. Those two companies have captured a very high market share of the under-20 smokers and they stand condemned, in my opinion, for directing their advertising in that way. However, while Amatil is not among the worst offenders, it is still pretty well up there. Its Benson and Hedges brand has about 10 per cent of the market share for young boys. While Amatil might not be the worst, it certainly makes a major contribution, and its contribution probably exceeds that of various other kinds of hard drug problems which have attracted so much publicity.

The tobacco industry, of course, argues rather spuriously that it is not concerned to cause people to take up smoking in the first instance. What it is interested in persuading people to alter their brand preference. I have always found that argument terribly implausible. If association with glamorous lifestyles, for example, is a form of advertising which effectively causes people to switch from one brand of cigarettes to another, I see no reason why association with glamorous lifestyles would not cause some people who currently do not smoke to take up the habit. There is a fundamental illogicality in that, in my opinion. I also think the distinction that some advertisers make between advertising directed at children and that directed at others has a certain degree of dubiousness. While there are some cases-earlier I mentioned Peter Jackson-where there is a very clear and very emphatic attempt to target young people, how in the world does one make a distinction between that and the use of sponsorship of sport, which is obviously followed by children as well as adults, and presumably it is done for some purpose by the cigarette companies? I fail to see how one can make a hard distinction between advertising targeted at children and that targeted at adults.

In support of what I am saying, I would like to quote from a recent supplement to an article in a journal called Community Health Studies. It is volume 11, No. 1 of 1987, and it is based on Australian statistical data. According to it:

The major finding of this study is that tobacco is reaching and presumably influencing very young children, contrary to the tobacco, industry's voluntary code of advertising.

If one excludes the self-serving material emanating from the tobacco and advertising industries, the evidence is fairly strong that that type of advertising does induce young people to take up smoking, to take up that terribly harmful and dangerous habit that, in one out of four cases, will kill them; that it is in fact effective in bringing more people into the cigarette market.

I might note that the Mulroney Government in Canada, which is not normally regarded as being hostile to corporate interests, has recently decided to ban virtually all tobacco advertising over the next 18 months. The difficulty we have, of course, with this type of issue is that there is a colossal vested interest involved. In 1982, some $60m was spent on tobacco produces advertising in Australia. That was five years ago so presumably the figures is substantially higher now. Obviously, where one has that sort of interest one finds an army of highly articulate, presumably well paid spivs arguing that tobacco is not really harmful to health and trying to create a cloud of confusion over an issue which is very clear so far as virtually all reputable health bodies in the world are concerned. If one tries to make a distinction between the morality of that sort of activity and outright drug trafficking, one is on pretty tenuous ground.

I conclude by noting that the sort of sponsorship we see with Amatil and this Jaycees' award is highly insidious. Obviously, it will not immediately increase the preferences for Amatil's brands of cigarettes, but it will have a retarding effect on an organisation such as Australian Jaycees which professes concern with improvements in our community. How free will it be to adequately and progressively pursue the task of tackling the major drug problem in this country at the moment-that is, tobacco smoking? I am really very sceptical on that score and, as a consequence, I certainly will not lend any support to this competition. I urge other members to do likewise.