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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1565

Mr ZAPPIA (1:38 PM) —I too rise to speak in support of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010. This bill brings internet advertising of cigarettes and tobacco products in line with advertising of tobacco products via other methods. Over the years governments around the world have imposed advertising restrictions as part of their antismoking strategies. It seems, however, that there are always new and sometimes very clever tactics used by tobacco manufacturers and retailers to market their products. We are all familiar with many examples, whether that is by using retailers to promote different products, having films and celebrities effectively being advertising agents for them, being associated with a whole range of sports events or, as we are seeing now, marketing via Facebook and the internet.

No product that I am aware of is as regulated by governments as is tobacco. One has to wonder, given that we go to such extents to regulate tobacco use in this country and around the world for that matter, why we continue to allow it to be a legally sold product. The World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which was adopted on 21 May 2003 and came into force on 2 February 2005, has been adopted by 171 parties. It was ratified by Australia on 27 October 2004. Article 13, which I will not go into detail on because it is a fairly lengthy section of the framework, specifically relates to advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The intention of this bill is to clarify the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act by, firstly, making it a specific offence to advertise or promote tobacco products on the internet and all other electronic media and future technologies unless compliant with state or territory legislation or Commonwealth regulations; and, secondly, enabling the making of regulations in relation to internet tobacco advertising to, firstly, prescribe the size, content, format and location of tobacco advertisements, secondly, to include health warnings, age restrictions on the sale of tobacco products and information about any fees, taxes and charges payable in relation to tobacco products, and, thirdly, to implement age restricted access systems for access to tobacco advertisements.

Existing legislation has simply not kept up with technological change in this regard, with cigarettes being marketed to children and teenagers through websites and social media networks. This bill will remove ambiguity regarding internet advertising of tobacco products. This bill also forms part of a raft of measures enacted by the government to reduce the harm caused by tobacco. Other measures enacted include the 25 per cent tobacco excise increase, investments in antismoking marketing campaigns, and legislation to mandate plain packaging of tobacco products by 2012.

I want to touch on a range of matters associated with the use of tobacco products. Other speakers in the course of this debate have highlighted the fact that smoking in Australia leads to some 15,000 deaths per annum and that it costs this nation around $31.5 billion per year. What is interesting is that, following World War II, throughout this country about three-quarters of the male population smoked and about a quarter of the female population smoked. By the mid-1970s the number of male smokers had dropped to around 43 per cent of the population, but the number of female smokers increased to 33 per cent and hit its peak around that time. It is interesting to follow those trends.

A range of campaigns associated with the promotion of cigarette products clearly appeal to different sectors of society. Today, about 19 per cent of the population are smokers, but what is particularly important in that figure of 19 per cent is that most became smokers at a very young age. It has been suggested that around 80 per cent of smokers are addicted at below the age of 18 years. In fact, on the flip side of that, it has also been suggested that only about five per cent of smokers took up the habit after the age of 24 years. That is critical and interesting to this legislation because it highlights that it is in those years that the most effective marketing campaigns by tobacco companies will occur—the campaigns that specifically target younger people.

We all know—and statistics will bear this out—that young people are the most likely to use the internet. They are the most familiar with it and the most likely to spend more time on it than any other age group in society. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the internet being used as a marketing tool by the tobacco companies. The people whom they need to target to become addicted to smoking are the very people who use the internet most. This particular bill is so important because it begins to provide some restrictions on the kind of advertising that is available through the internet. I have no doubt that tobacco companies will always continue to find smart ways of trying to get to that age sector, but this is one step that we need to take in order to try and reduce their ability to influence young people before they take up the habit.

Debate interrupted.