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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1558

Mr LYONS (1:09 PM) —I rise to speak about the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010. The bill addresses an ambiguity that exists regarding internet advertising of tobacco products, amending the act to specifically include advertising over the internet and other electronic media. This bill makes it an offence to advertise tobacco products on the internet and other electronic media such as mobile phones and computers unless the advertising complies with state and territory legislation or Commonwealth regulations.

The Gillard Labor government is committed to reducing the effects of tobacco on Australia’s population. We acknowledge that tobacco remains one of the leading causes of preventable deaths amongst Australians. Our message is clear: smoking kills. Research tells us that people who begin smoking in their teen years are more likely to become regular smokers, smoke more heavily, have difficulty quitting and are at greater risk of getting smoking related diseases. The majority of adult smokers say they wish they had never started and that they would like to stop. In fact, around 80 per cent of Australian smokers have made attempts to quit. Tobacco causes more illness and death than any other drug. In 2004-05, 14,900 died from smoking related diseases, which accounts for around 89 per cent of all drug caused deaths. Research estimates that one in two lifetime smokers will die from a disease caused by their smoking.

Current marketing practices by the tobacco industry may be contributing to an increased rate of smoking amongst children. Whilst tobacco users are quitting every day, they are replaced by new smokers, most of whom are adolescents. The fact that adolescents smoke the most highly advertised brands indicates that they are responsive to these marketing campaigns. Research tells us that 70 per cent of young people are receptive to tobacco advertising. The tobacco industry’s advertising and promotional products are filled with messages and images that reflect the qualities teenagers value, such as popularity, independence and ‘coolness’. The marketing approaches imply that these qualities can be achieved by using their tobacco products.

There is a strong linkage between tobacco promotional activities and the uptake of smoking among adolescents. Brand loyalty is usually established with a child’s first cigarette. Children relate their brand selection to the influences of advertising, free sampling, promotional items, package design and the implied health benefits of low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes.

Large promotional pushes by cigarette marketers have been linked with increased levels of daily smoking among adolescents. Tobacco marketing is a stronger influence in encouraging adolescents to initiate the smoking uptake process than peer, family or other social influences. There is clear evidence that children’s attention is attracted by cigarette advertising and that they remember it. A comprehensive ban would have the largest impact on youth and young adult smoking.

On average, people smoke their first cigarette at the age of 16. Therefore, we need to target mobile phone and internet forms of advertising to ensure this age group are not bombarded with pro-tobacco marketing. This bill does exactly that. The media platforms that are accessed by young people today are continually evolving. The internet is a major vehicle through which young people can be exposed to tobacco advertising. Unregulated internet marketing and the promotion of tobacco products undermine the effectiveness of the TAP Act. That is why this amendment is so important.

We need to change the perception that is portrayed in advertising that smoking is the norm and bring retail and internet sales in line with each other. ComScore, a global leader in measuring the digital world, has estimated that nearly nine million Australians visited a social networking site in June 2009, making it one of the most popular content categories on the web. This includes websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Facebook was the most visited social networking destination, with more than six million visitors, growing 95 per cent from the previous year. MySpace ranked second, with 3.5 million visitors, up by five per cent, followed by Windows Live Profile with nearly two million visitors. Twitter witnessed the most substantial growth, surging to 800,000 visitors in June, up from just 13,000 a year ago. It is concerning that tobacco products are advertised and targeted on the internet using social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. It means that young people can easily be exposed to cigarette advertising that may not contain any health messages at all.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of social network marketing, information on advertising on Facebook can be found in the 2010 Nielsen online Asia-Pacific report. From this report we learn that social media is having an increasing impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions. In the Asia-Pacific, online product reviews are the third most trusted source of information when making purchase decisions, behind family and friends. A survey of 117 companies in September 2009 by E-tailing shows that Facebook, blogs, Twitter and customer reviews are considered the most effective tactics for mobilising consumers to talk up products online. Tobacco companies know online advertising works.

While the amendments will apply to the promotion of tobacco on social networking sites, we acknowledge that the identification of the publisher of a tobacco advertisement on a social networking site is difficult. Many of the advertisements or promotions on sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Myspace are placed by anonymous users, so identifying or prosecuting the publisher can be difficult. This should not deter the passing of this legislation.

We need to do all we can as a government to limit the harmful advertising that is already available. The cost of tobacco use in Australia is high. According to Quit Victoria, in the financial year 2004-2005, the total social cost of tobacco use in Australia was $31.5 billion. This accounted for 56.2 per cent of the total social costs of all drugs, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Social costs include costs to government, business, smokers and their families. The figures include some costs of involuntary smoking, such as second-hand smoke exposure in the home and the exposure of unborn children to the effects of their mothers’ smoking. These costs are mostly imposed upon the young. Children under 15 years account for 25 per cent of deaths, 96 per cent of hospital bed days and 91 per cent of hospital costs attributable to involuntary smoking.

In my research into smoking, I came across a harrowing phrase: ‘imagine if a passenger airplane crashed in Australia each week’. This is approximately how many people die from smoking each week: 290 people. I will say it again: smoking is the largest single cause of death and disease in Australia. We as a government have a responsibility to try to curb smoking levels.

Consider the health effects: Some of the diseases caused by smoking include: cancer of the lip, lung, tongue, mouth, throat, nose, nasal sinus, voice box, esophageus, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bladder, cervix and bone marrow, along with heart disease, stroke, emphysema, asthma and blindness. As a former administrator at the Launceston General Hospital, it is evident to me that smoking not only has a terrible effect on health but also is a strong addiction that is hard to kick. Too many patients in every hospital around this nation are suffering because of tobacco. World renowned medical practitioners agree. Former US Surgeon General Dr Charles Koop once stated:

… cigarette smoking is clearly identified as the chief, preventable cause of death in our society …

Some 20 years earlier, Dr Luther Terry, another US Surgeon General, released the first Surgeon Generals report on smoking and health. This landmark report linked smoking with cancer, heart disease and emphysema. He stated:

… no reasonable person should dispute that cigarette smoking is a serious health hazard.

I wanted to speak on this very important bill today because in my home state of Tasmania there is evidence that smoking rates have increased despite decreases in national trends. Alarmingly, a large number of Tasmanian women continue to smoke during pregnancy. In 2005, 27.6 per cent of pregnant women were found to have smoked during pregnancy—15.8 per cent having smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes per day and 11.8 per cent having smoked more than 10 a day. The high rate of smoking by women of child-bearing age is a major concern, not only for the health and wellbeing of young women but also because of the impact on fertility rates and on babies and small children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. In 2004, 50 per cent of the Tasmanian Aboriginal adult population were found to be current smokers. This is far too high.

I am most pleased to say that, in my local community, the Launceston City Council has taken a proactive approach to curb smoking in public areas such as the mall and near bus stations in the city centre. I extend to them my thanks and congratulations. The move was not without community debate, but it was the right decision. Our state Labor government was the first in Australia to introduce a ban on indoor smoking, such as in restaurants, pubs and clubs. What a great difference that made. They followed this by enacting legislation making it an offence to smoke in a car with person under the age of 18.

Tobacco use is Australia’s single largest cause of premature death and disease, killing 15,000 Australians a year and costing our economy $31.5 billion. Now is the time to act. This amendment should not be delayed. Our internet tobacco legislation will mean that online sales, advertising and promotion of tobacco will now be subject to the same kinds of restrictions that are placed on over-the-counter sales. This, in my opinion, is a great step forward. As VicHealth CEO Todd Harper said of tobacco companies:

We must ensure they aren’t able to use the internet to recruit young smokers.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Companies promoting cigarettes on the internet currently do not have to display the same health warnings on their products as retailers with a physical point of sale. The legislation shuts this loophole. That amendment is also an important step in reaching the benchmarks set under the COAG National Healthcare Agreement of reducing smoking rates to 10 per cent by 2018 and halving the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking rate.

Together with our efforts to mandate the plain packaging of tobacco products from 2012, Australia is on track to have the world’s toughest measures against tobacco. Australia’s comprehensive approach to tobacco control, with sustained and coordinated actions from the Commonwealth and state governments—including excise bans, advertising bans, bans on smoking in workplaces and public spaces as well as anti-smoking advertising campaigns—over several decades, has seen smoking rates cut from 30.5 per cent in 1988 to 16.6 per cent in 2007. This is a fantastic achievement.

The main impact of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010 will be on retailers who advertise their products without the required health warnings and as being ‘tax free’. Essentially this amendment fosters a level playing field because restrictions placed on over-the-counter sales of tobacco products and online sales will no longer be different. I am pleased the Gillard Labor government is taking a strong stance on smoking. We have much more to do, particularly with educating our young people so they do not start smoking in the first place. I commend the bill to the House and I hope those on the opposite do the same.