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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1590

Mr GEORGANAS (3:32 PM) —I join my colleagues in support of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010 and the inclusion of internet tobacco advertising within the tobacco advertising framework. This bill makes the advertising of tobacco products on the internet and by other electronic means an offence unless it complies with state or territory legislation or Commonwealth regulation. The bill simply amends the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 to extend existing restrictions on tobacco advertising.

The internet is being added to the list of media currently regulated: print media advertising; advertisements in films, videos, television and radio; advertising on tickets, handbills and other documents; advertising on anything sold or supplied; and outdoor advertising on billboards or public transport. It is entirely appropriate that all advertising content comply with the standards and laws of our land irrespective of the medium—whether it be print, television, radio, internet or even phone messaging, text. Uniformity is, in this case, a virtue.

Many people have argued over time that internet content should not be regulated, that a systematic intrusion and limitation of content by any means should not be applied to the World Wide Web. Arguments along this line were advanced in response to the concept of an internet filter, the purpose of which would be to disable web pages with proscribed content. The argument has been that people should be their own filters, being free to choose what they watch, read, listen to et cetera. It is a purely social libertarian argument—that the common sense of the individual provides satisfactory safety for that individual and guides what is in their best interests and thereby that of the society of which they are a part. It is a nice idea. It would be lovely if people made rational choices or if their choices could be made without impact on others—their family, their community and their nation.

Smoking is one of the many choices that impacts substantially on others. The impact of passive smoking, for example, can be devastating. We have all seen the health reports that come out on passive smoking. The sickness and disease caused by smoking is incredibly costly to each and every one of us, as in this we are all connected in one way or another. We are the family and friends of smokers, the workplace colleagues of smokers or the employing companies of smokers, and, ultimately, taxpayers pick up the vast majority of the health costs incurred in caring for smokers. Smoking is one choice that a person cannot make in isolation. The consequences impact on each and every one of us, directly or indirectly.

A person’s freedom of choice in this matter is further complicated by the fact that a person’s decision at one time is not necessarily a decision that can be reviewed and amended at a later time. I say that because tobacco is one of the most addictive substances in our marketplace. A person’s freedom to choose to buy and smoke a packet of cigarettes is not accompanied by an equally free choice, once the addiction has taken hold, to cease buying and smoking cigarettes. The likelihood of addiction and ultimately consequent disease and death sets this substance apart by far from the majority of consumables that we eat, drink and take.

I know about addiction to tobacco from direct experience. I remember how hard I found it to kick the habit. I will have been smoke-free for seven years this coming May. When I started smoking everyone around me was smoking and there was no education on it. We knew that perhaps it may cause some sort of harm, but it was something everyone did. We did not have the information at our hands that we have today. I am sure numerous members share this intimate knowledge of the education that we have about tobacco in this place. I appreciate the additional effort the medical professions made to help me seven years ago to rid myself of what I call a curse, because it was—I tried absolutely everything for years and struggled to give it up. But, being an addiction, one is never totally rid of the desire to smoke. That is what makes it such an evil—continually, constantly inspiring self-harm and indirect harm to others.

The theme of this bill is harm minimisation of our population through discouraging the consumption of tobacco products, especially—as we heard the member for Makin say earlier—in our younger population, our children; those who are the next customers of the big tobacco companies, because that is where they are aiming. They are losing people like me at a regular pace, either through death or through giving up, and their next market is the young—to try and get them as customers so they can have them for life.

It cannot do any harm to look at the facts again. The Australian Health Institute encapsulates the effects of smoking thus:

Tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of ill health and death. It is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, cancer and a variety of other diseases and conditions.

Smoking is a key risk factor for the three diseases that cause most deaths in Australia: ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and lung cancer. It is responsible for around 80 per cent of all lung cancer deaths and 20 per cent of all cancer deaths. Smoking has been linked to cancers of the mouth, bladder, kidney, stomach and cervix, among others. Smokers are also at increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and reduced lung function, and smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of health problems for both mother and child. Tobacco use has been linked to a variety of other conditions such as diabetes, peptic ulcers, some vision problems and back pain.

In 1998, over 10 years ago, smoking cost each and every one of us a combined total of almost $13 billion in healthcare, lost productivity and other costs. Healthcare costs attributable to tobacco for the year 1998-99 were over $1 billion, including medical, hospital, nursing home and pharmaceutical costs. The costs of the cigarettes are in addition to these figures, of course, putting additional strain on family budgets and decreasing family options for health and wellbeing.

When one looks at the irrational decision to smoke, the addiction to nicotine that keeps people smoking, the impact it has on the individuals concerned and the proportion of the public health dollar that goes to minimising the consequences of smoking related disease one can only be convinced of the merits of this bill. One can only be convinced that the degree to which liberty and personal freedoms within cyberspace are curtailed by the regulation of tobacco advertising is very minor in comparison to the cost of the consumption of tobacco products incurred by each and every one of us. I commend this bill to the House.