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Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Page: 4813

Ms HALL (7:31 PM) —Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker Saffin. I understand that you will be speaking after me in this debate. When somebody relieves you in the speaker’s chair, I am sure you will make an outstanding contribution to the debate. I rise to support theExcise Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2010. I acknowledge the fine contributions that have been made to this debate by members on both sides of this House. I understand that the opposition will be supporting this legislation and that the member for Wentworth, when he was Leader of the Opposition, was also very committed to introducing an excise on tobacco.

This legislation puts into practice the government’s announcement of an increase to the excise rate applying to tobacco, cigarettes, cigars and snuff, and the relevant excise-equivalent customs duty rates applying to the equivalent imported products by 25 per cent, applying on and from 30 April 2010. Separate notices were gazetted on 29 April 2010 to give effect to the collection of higher excise and excise-equivalent duty rates. As required by the excise and customs provision that allowed the relevant offices to publish these gazettal notices, these notices specified that it was intended to introduce tariff proposals into parliament within seven sitting days of the sitting of the House of Representatives after publication of the gazetted notices.

As I said, there have been a number of fine contributions to this debate, and I think smoking is an issue that we as a society need to face. I was once a smoker myself, and I must say that I found giving up smoking to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I appreciate how difficult it is for a person who is smoking to quit, but I have not had a cigarette now for almost 30 years. My father was a very heavy smoker and, as a result of his smoking, he got cancer had to have his voice box removed. I have many acquaintances who have smoking related problems and friends who still smoke, and I understand from their perspective how difficult it is to kick the habit and how addictive cigarette smoking is. But, no matter how we look at it, it poses an incredible risk to our health, and I think it is beholden on governments to look at ways that they can encourage people to stop smoking. This legislation is one tool of the many that need to be introduced by governments to address this issue.

The Preventative Health Taskforce looked at smoking and highlighted in its report that between 1950 and 2008—that is, almost 60 years—more than 900,000 Australians died prematurely because they smoked. That is a significant proportion of our population, and as a society we have lost many, many valuable people. Smoking is not only an enormous cost to our economy but also an enormous social cost, because every one of those 900,000 people had families, contributed through work to our society and during the stages of their illness there was a cost to our society. That really highlights the fact that we need to address the issue of smoking. The social cost of smoking exceeded $31 billion in 2005, but it is impossible to put a dollar value on the grief, suffering and loss of families. I was quite young when my father died, and I found it incredibly difficult to come to terms with it. But there was one and only one reason that he died, and that was the fact that he smoked in excess of 60 cigarettes a day. He was an educated man who knew that smoking was a health hazard, but he continued to smoke, and that is the case with many people.

It is very interesting to note that the Preventative Health Taskforce looked at a number of papers. In their final recommendation they highlighted a couple of things that we as a government and a society need to do to help people move away from smoking, and at the same time they acknowledged that it was going to take quite a considerable amount of time before smoking was eradicated in our society. There are still people taking up smoking. I am particularly concerned about young women and the impact it has on their health. I will talk a little about that in a moment.

The first issue that the Preventative Health Taskforce identified was that we needed to increase the price of tobacco products, invest more money in media campaigns and implement other policies. Increasing the price of tobacco products is seen as highly effective. People react to increases in price. It is one of many tools, but it is not the only answer because, as has been said by other speakers, if a person is truly addicted to smoking they will go without something else. It is one tool but it is an important tool. It is a tool that needs to be taken up by government. The paper also suggested that policies and programs in combination would institutionalise the threat of tobacco. It also talked about plain packaging. The Minister for Health and Ageing has already made an announcement on plain packaging of cigarettes. It is one of many tools that need to be part of a feast of measures introduced by government to address the issue of tobacco smoking.

I note that yesterday was World No Tobacco Day. As part of World No Tobacco Day, Minister Snowden has made an announcement in relation to putting in place more programs to assist Indigenous Australians to stop smoking. One program takes into account regional tobacco coordinators. There is one in the Hunter region, which is part of my electorate. There are also tobacco action workers and healthy lifestyle workers. In all, there are four workers in the Hunter, in the Newcastle-Lake Macquarie area, which most of my electorate covers. I am sure the Central Coast part of the electorate will also receive some coverage.

I would like to just quickly move to an issue that I think is very important and links very closely to not smoking: Go Red for Women. This month, June, the Heart Foundation is conducting its Go Red for Women campaign. I will be organising a special forum in my electorate. I will be inviting people who live within the Shortland electorate to come along to this forum. I will have some expert speakers to talk to the women of the electorate. It is a shocking fact that heart disease is the main cause of death of women in Australia. It is killing an average of 31 women every day and yet 80 per cent of women are unaware of the fact that heart disease is such a risk to their health. I note that 11,221 Australian women died of heart disease and 2,774 women died of breast cancer in 2008. That shows how many women and how many families are affected by heart disease. One of the key factors impacting on heart disease is smoking. The Heart Foundation makes the point that it is very important for women to stop smoking. In Australia 16 per cent of women who are 18 years of age and over smoke daily. One of the facts that I find quite disturbing is that young women are taking up smoking at a faster rate than young men. It increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as cancer, obviously. It affects the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body. It also reduces the amount of oxygen in a person’s blood.

Breathing other people’s smoke, second-hand smoke, is also very harmful. There have been a number of court cases that have highlighted this fact. It is also important to note that smoking is becoming a lot less socially acceptable these days. It is something that should be highlighted to women. There are a few key strategies that people can put in place. They can set a date for quitting and begin to change their habits. They have to learn how to handle stress and how to get around the urge of smoking. From my own perspective, I made a number of attempts before I was finally successful at giving up smoking. On a number of occasions I made excuses for starting to smoke again. I would say, ‘I’m stressed.’ There was always a reason.

There comes a time when a person needs to say, ‘This is the day I am going to stop. No more excuses, I am going to learn how to handle stress. I am going to do other things to handle those tough and stressful times’—things like exercise or going outside or doing something that just breaks that urge. It is important. Do not give up. If you have one cigarette, that is not the end. Do not see that as a failure; just say, ‘Okay, I made a mistake. I’m still going to undertake a quit program.’ Consider nicotine replacement products; call the Quitline. Once a person stops smoking, they find that they enjoy their food a lot more.

Overall, one in seven women smoke daily, but it is more common among women aged between 20 and 49. About one in every five women in that age group are daily smokers, and it is most common amongst women aged 40 to 49. As I have said, the proportion of young female smokers has increased, but after one year of stopping smoking, the risk of disease halves compared with those who continue to smoke. Between two and six years after stopping smoking, the risk to the person is reduced even more. Smoking was the fourth largest contributor to the burden of disease amongst females, responsible for six per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2003. I think these are startling figures. I think they speak for themselves. During the month of June, during the Go Red for Women campaign, we need to consider these facts. We need to consider that by stopping smoking you immediately reduce the impact that it has on your health. The longer you refrain from smoking, the better it is for you. As I was saying before, two to six years after stopping smoking, the risk to your health is the same as that for a nonsmoker.

I commend this legislation to the House. I see it as part of a package of measures that is needed to reduce smoking in our community. I see that the Minister for Health and Ageing is in the chamber, and I know that she is committed to reducing the number of people who smoke in Australia. I note that she has a particular interest in young women and would be very supportive of the Go Red for Women campaign and the women with heart disease coalition. I commend the legislation to the House.