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Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Page: 8739


Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (18:00): I have heard the claims that there is 'no argument' in support of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011. In fact, there are over 15,000 good reasons. The Cancer Council of Australia and the Heart Foundation have advised that tobacco kills over 15,000 Australians each year. It is widely recognised that smoking is the single largest preventable cause of illness and premature death in Australia.

Experts advise and common sense suggests that plain packaging of cigarettes will reduce the attractiveness of cigarettes and smoking, particularly for teenagers. Simply put, plain cigarette packets will promote better health. These bills are an unambiguous public health measure. The explanatory memorandum to the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 makes very clear the intention of the bill is to reduce the appeal of cigarettes to young people and improve the effectiveness of the health warnings on cigarette packets.

Cigarettes are poisonous. Smoking will damage your health. Smoking is likely to kill you. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, ammonia and arsenic. To put it bluntly, that is a cocktail of chemicals you would find in car exhaust fumes, floor cleaner and rat poison. There is no safe level of smoking. Sixty-nine of the 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke cause cancer.

Tobacco smoke causes cancer in the lungs, mouth, throat, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, cervix and bone marrow. Smoking causes decreased blood flow and can lead to amputation of the legs. Smoking can reduce fertility in both men and women. Every breath of cigarette smoke that is inhaled contains tar. It coats the lungs like soot in a chimney. Smoking leaves fatty deposits in the blood vessels, preventing oxygen from travelling to the heart and brain, which can cause heart disease and strokes—which of course in turn, as we know, can be fatal. There are also a number of eye diseases caused by smoking. These are just some of the appalling health effects suffered by individuals because of smoking.

But we have to recognise that there is a massive social cost as well. It has been estimated by the Cancer Council that the total social cost of smoking is $31 billion each and every year. That includes healthcare costs, subsidies for drugs and, of course, absence from work. These costs are borne by households, by businesses and by government.

I think we ought to be absolutely clear why people smoke. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known. Addiction to nicotine occurs quickly—perhaps after just literally a few cigarettes. Research reports published by the Cancer Council show that most smokers become addicted to nicotine as teenagers and that very few people start smoking after their teenage years. Research also shows that the younger a smoker starts the heavier that smoker's habit will be. And the heavier a person smokes the risks of smoking related illnesses increase and, of course, the risk of death increases. Some might say that freedom of choice should prevail here and an individual's right to ingest poison should not be questioned. Well, almost all smokers become addicted when they are young. They are denied the opportunity to have a choice about smoking as an adult. Of course, we hear the criticism that passage of this legislation will do little to lower smoking rates. I think that those critics are just plain wrong. The key objective of this legislation is to stop kids being attracted to cigarettes in the first place. We do not know how many existing smokers will stop smoking as a result of this legislation but I say that if this legislation stops one young Australian from picking up a shiny coloured packet, and that prevents them becoming addicted to cigarettes, then in my view it will have been worth while.

If this legislation just stops one Australian business from losing an employee as a result of smoking related illness then the legislation will have been worth while. If this legislation means that one less Australian family has to come to terms with the grief and the pain caused by a smoking-related death then it will have been worth while. I am confident, that this legislation will save many lives but, as I said, if it saves only one then I think it is a very worthwhile exercise.

The Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 will mean that cigarettes are less attractive, particularly to young people. I think it is a very important public health measure. I strongly support it and I hope it receives very strong endorsement in the Senate and the Australian parliament.