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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Page: 2746


Mrs D’ATH (8:34 PM) —I rise today in support of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010. I cannot recall an easier bill to speak in support of. Smoking kills Australians every day. How can members of this place do anything but work as hard as they can to prevent this? We have heard the statistics listed during this debate and they are grim. Approximately three million Australians smoke every day, and smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Australia. Not only does smoking kill 15,000 Australians every year; it also costs the economy over $31 billion. Smoking leaves a horrendous trail of destruction through our lives, at a horrible cost to our society and our economy. I believe it is up to us to take action; we cannot afford not to. This bill is another step forward in tackling this issue.

This bill will make it an offence to advertise tobacco products on the internet or any other form of electronic media unless compliant with state or territory legislation or Commonwealth regulations. As part of the Gillard government’s ambitious health reforms, we are taking strong action through a multifaceted and comprehensive plan to reduce smoking. All governments have committed through COAG to reduce the daily smoking rate among adults to 10 per cent by 2018 and to halve the daily smoking rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This year the government offered smokers support to quit by subsidising nicotine patches and the antismoking drug varenicline through the PBS for the first time. We already have a history of coordinated federal and state plans to reduce smoking. Through historic bans on smoking in the workplace and public spaces and removing advertising, we are making it harder for Australians, and particularly for our children, to fall into the trap of taking up smoking.

This bill is just the next step in the government’s antismoking plan. It includes a 25 per cent excise increase, announced in 2010; a record investment in antismoking social marketing campaigns; and legislation to mandate plain packaging of tobacco products. This government is offering the community the best support it can to help kick the habit. By helping to communicate the dangers of smoking and by offering support through subsidised medication, we are encouraging and supporting Australians to quit for good. This is the responsible thing to do. This is the right thing to do.

Why do we need this bill? In 1992, the Keating government introduced the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition act—the TAP Act—to comprehensively ban tobacco advertising in this country. Since the passage of the act, however, we have of course seen an explosion in the use of the internet and mobile phones. The application of the act to internet and mobile phone advertising of tobacco products is currently not clear. The use of the internet and mobile phones as advertising media has become increasingly widespread. In using these technologies, our young people are increasingly exposed to tobacco advertising. There is not much point in regulating other forms of advertising while allowing the internet and mobile phones to be a free for all where tobacco can be promoted without regulation. This lack of arbitration also undermines the effectiveness of the rest of the TAP Act. It is an unregulated loophole that we must close.

It is important in considering this bill to also consider the ever-increasing number of young people accessing the internet and the number of young people smoking. The Australian Bureau of Statistics report titled Tobacco smoking in Australia: a snapshot, 2004-05 noted:

People who start smoking when they are young are more likely to smoke heavily, to become more dependent on nicotine and to be at increased risk of smoking-related illness or death.

I note the youth trends in the explanatory memorandum of the nationally conducted study, led by the Cancer Council of Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, calledSmoking behaviours of Australian secondary students in 2005. This study found that in 2005 just over 140,000 Australian school students aged between 12 and 17 were then current smokers. This equates to around seven per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds and 17 per cent of 16- to 17-year-olds. With the use of the internet in the everyday lives of our youth, we need to ensure that we provide the same amount of protection from tobacco advertising through this medium as we provide from tobacco advertising through other media.

Research shows us that messages and images promoting the use of tobacco products can normalise tobacco use, increase the uptake of smoking by our young people and act as a general disincentive to quit. There is a good reason that you do not see movie stars promoting smoking as glamorous and cool anymore. Since the introduction of the 1992 TAP Act, most forms of tobacco advertising have been banned. This bill will tighten up the gaps that threaten public health by limiting the broadcasting and publication of messages and images that promote the use of tobacco products via electronic channels.

This bill will clarify the grey areas that currently exist in the act by bringing the advertising of tobacco products on the internet and other electronic media into line with restrictions already in place on other media. It is currently not clear if the advertising of tobacco products on the internet is permitted. The intended effect of the draft bill is to clarify the TAP Act by 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. It will also enable the making of regulations on internet tobacco advertising prescribing the size, content, format and location of tobacco advertisements as well as the inclusion of health warnings, warnings about age restrictions on the sale of tobacco products, information about any fees, taxes and charges payable in relation to tobacco products and age-restricted access systems for access to tobacco advertisements. It is important to note that this bill brings penalties into line with other forms of advertising and promotion. The penalties for offences contravening tobacco advertising regulations will be set at a maximum of 120 penalty units, which currently equates to $13,200. This bill is a comprehensive plan to regulate tobacco advertising, and I call on the opposition to support it.

The Labor Party does not accept political donations from tobacco companies anymore. The Labor Party made the ethical decision to walk away from tobacco company donations. This is why the big tobacco companies are placing all their bets on the Liberal Party’s preventing these changes to laws affecting the promotion of tobacco products; unfortunately, the Liberal Party does not see any difficulty in accepting money from the tobacco industry. We saw during the last election campaign the massive $5 million advertising blitz from big tobacco targeting the Labor Party. Why did tobacco run this campaign? Simple—the bill will contribute to a reduction in the uptake of smoking. That is why Labor seeks to introduce this legislation, and I hope the opposition will support it as well.

The Gillard government wants to encourage smokers to choose a healthy and long life over sickness, disease and premature death. Last year the Labor government increased the tobacco excise duty by 25 per cent. This measure alone is expected to reduce the number of Australians smoking by approximately 87,000. Increasing the price of tobacco products is an effective incentive to help smokers quit. From July 2012, when a smoker walks into a store to buy a packet of cigarettes, they will see a range of plain coloured packets with no logos or colours except the confronting and very real health warnings. All these measures make it harder for tobacco companies to sell their products and remind every Australian that each cigarette brings you closer to a premature death.

When we consider the cost to our economy, estimated at over $31 billion every year, we are of course motivated not only by consolidating a uniform range of regulatory arrangements but also by the health costs relating to the consumption of tobacco. These costs not only are an incredibly expensive drain on the health sector and taxpayers but also exact a terrible social cost on families afflicted by smoking related disease and what can be very long and painful periods of illness. This government is committed to reducing the debilitating effects of tobacco on Australians. The federal Labor government is committed to preventive health. It was this Labor government that sought to establish a preventive health agency to ensure a nationally coordinated approach to national health strategies and research. It was this Labor government that introduced the alcopops tax to reduce the amount of binge drinking amongst younger people, particularly young females. It is this Labor government that has invested more funds in preventive health over its first term in government than the previous government did in 11 years.

In comparison, the opposition has blocked many health reform bills put before both the current parliament and the last parliament, including legislation to tackle preventive health such as the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Bill 2010. The Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010 will address a glaring ambiguity in the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act. It has the support of all Australian governments. It will not place a financial burden on the Australian government above any current costs of the act and will in fact both reduce contributions from taxpayers to the economy and increase the quality of life of the of Australians through health benefits—and, let us not forget, it will save lives. Smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease among Australians, and we owe it to them to take the strongest action we can both to help support smokers make a decision to quit for good and to stop new smokers taking up the habit. I commend this bill to the house.