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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8717

Tobacco Plain Packaging

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (14:37): My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister explain to the House what today's High Court decision means for public health and in particular what it means for young Australians?

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (14:37): I thank the member for Petrie for her question. I know this is an issue very close to her heart. Today's victory in the High Court will save countless Australian lives. It will mean that big tobacco will not be able any longer to use tobacco packages as mobile billboards for their product. It will mean that fewer Australians will ever take up this deadly habit.

Every year, smoking kills around 15,000 Australians. It accounts for about 10½ per cent of deaths in this country. That is more than 10 times the number of people that died on our roads last year. It is about 30 times more people than the tobacco industry employs in Australia. Because of today's decision, cigarette packages will no longer be able to go with branding that looks cool or sophisticated or macho or feminine. Instead, this is what cigarette packs manufactured from 1 October will look like.

Because of today's decision, cigarette companies will no longer be able to appeal to young people and get them hooked for life. We know that the tobacco companies' business model relies on getting young people hooked. In fact, 80 per cent of smokers were addicted before they turned 19 years old, and 99 per cent of smokers were addicted before they turned 26. The reason that tobacco companies have to target young people is that their older smokers keep dying. In fact, half of smokers end up dying from smoking.

We know that young smokers are most responsive to two things. They are responsive to price and they are responsive to packaging. We have done a lot in the area of price, by increasing excise in the recent budget and by reducing the number of duty-free cigarettes that people can bring into Australia. We have listed nicotine replacement therapy on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. We have restricted advertising at point of sale. We have increased the graphic warnings on packets. We have seen bans on smoking in restaurants, workplaces and so on.

Over the years, this combination of measures has made dramatic inroads in smoking rates in Australia. In 1988, about 30 per cent of people over the age of 14 were daily smokers. We have got that rate down to half that now—about 15 per cent of Australians still smoking. Fifteen per cent is still too high, and we have got a target of getting that down to 10 per cent.

While we have won this battle today, the war is far from over. Almost half of Aboriginal people still smoke, and about 20 per cent of them die from smoking. We know that a third of teenage mums smoke while they are pregnant. So we still have a lot to do, but today is a great victory. (Time expired)