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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3368


Senator MASON —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Government aware of an article in the October issue of Nature stating that smoking is estimated to cause 30 per cent of all cancers, that in Norway a national anti-smoking campaign involving banning cigarette advertisements resulted in fewer people taking up smoking, and that a general approach to the treatment of cancer ought to be preventive in view of the increasing indictment of smoking as a major cancer hazard? When will the Government ban all advertising of tobacco, prohibit smoking in aircraft and other public places, and ensure that tobacco products are taxed at levels which compensate for the enormous sums in health care costs they cause to the community?


Senator GRIMES —I was given some warning of Senator Mason's question and read the article in Nature. Slap bang in the middle of the article is the statement that smoking is estimated to cause 30 per cent of cancers. That may or may not be true, but there is nothing in the article to back the statement. Whatever the truth of the matter--


Senator Mason —There are references.


Senator GRIMES —There are references, but not to back that statement. The honourable senator should not worry. I am not attacking the article. Certainly the easiest and simplest public health measure we could achieve in this country to improve everyone's health would be for everyone to give up smoking. I accept that. It is a matter of how one goes about it.


Senator Haines —You leave the cigarettes in the packet. That is how you go about it.


Senator GRIMES —Maybe you do not even produce the packets, Senator. The Government has control over the electronic media. As Senator Mason knows, cigarette advertising on the electronic media has been banned. We need to get co-operation from the States to ban other forms of advertising, which are primarily a matter of consideration by the States and Territories. It is certainly possible to carry out such a ban. Bans on smoking in aircraft have been mooted for a long time. The Minister for Aviation has written to the airlines suggesting that smoking be banned on flights of less than 90 minutes duration. The airlines responded stating that they believe that legislation should be introduced for such a ban. The Minister for Aviation is considering such a ban. The Commonwealth Public Service Board has issued new guidelines on smoking. It is aiming for a smoke-free Commonwealth Public Service by 1 March 1988. Smoking was banned in the offices of the Commonwealth Department of Health on 1 December 1986.

On the question of taxation, this morning we debated Senator Vigor's amendments which attempted to increase greatly the excise on tobacco and ban taxation deductions for cigarette advertising. Senator Crichton-Browne, who is attempting to interject, is correct. Some people would ban alcohol, burn books and shoot politicians. Maybe we would be better if those things happened, but in this country we tenuously hang on to our democracy and we will for some time yet. Therefore, we should go about these things in a more sane and sensible way than the sorts of proposals that are put forward by Senator Mason and his colleague.