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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1825


Senator JACK EVANS —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of the latest campaign by the tobacco industry to entice children to smoke? Mr President, I have in my hand a free gift pack of 40 cigarettes--


The PRESIDENT —Order! Will the honourable senator ask his question?


Senator JACK EVANS —Yes, Mr President, I am demonstrating the point of the question. This gift pack was mailed to a 14-year-old Canberra girl who had responded to an advertisement offering free cigarettes to people who sent in the attached coupon. Accompanying the free gift pack is an offer of a free carton of cigarettes to persons who send in another coupon. Will the Government continue to allow the massive promotional activities of tobacco companies directed at enticing children to start smoking? What steps will the Government take to prevent these reprehensible practices against young Australians?


Senator GRIMES —I have had my attention drawn to the advertisement and the resultant sending of cigarettes to young people. The first point I would like to make is that not only is such a practice undesirable but also in regard to 14- year-olds it is illegal in every State and Territory in this land. As far as I can recall in every State and Territory it is illegal to provide tobacco products to people under 16. If Senator Evans will provide me with details of the case I will certainly take it up with the Minister for Health to investigate what action can be taken to dissuade the company from undertaking this side of promotion.

As the honourable senator will know this Government, like its predecessor, is concerned to cut down on advertising of this type which encourages people, but particularly young people, to smoke. Dr Blewett and the State Health Ministers have had several meetings, to my knowledge, concerning this subject. They have discussed whether or not legislation of the type that Senator Evans is obviously in favour of is necessary. The State and Federal governments have responded responsibly, I believe, to the almost universal, public view-I exclude Senator Elstob from this-that tobacco smoking is unhealthy and undesirable.


Senator Elstob —Absolute rubbish. You speak for yourself.


Senator GRIMES —I am excluding Senator Elstob; I always exclude him from this. I point out to the tobacco industry and the company in particular that sponsored this program that, if they continue to proceed in the way they are they will virtually guarantee that public opinion will demand that governments take the very legislative action which they seem to dislike so much. However, I certainly would be happy to take the matter up if Senator Evans will provide me with the details.


Senator JACK EVANS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. As the Minister may be under a misapprehension that it is illegal to give away cigarettes as distinct from selling cigarettes, I ask: Will the Government take steps to prevent the giving of cigarettes to minors around Australia and particularly in the Australian Capital Territory where it is my understanding that the only law is against the selling of cigarettes to minors?


Senator GRIMES —I will certainly draw that anomaly in the legislation to the attention of the Minister for Health. Certainly in the State I come from the signs say that it is illegal to provide tobacco products to children under 16. I will certainly draw that matter to the attention of the Minister.