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Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Page: 8756

Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (19:16): I rise to provide a contribution to this debate on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011 and the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill 2011. I have some introductory remarks I want to make about the plain packaging debate but particularly I will turn my attention to the work that the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee has done in relation to, in particular, the Trade Marks Amendment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Bill.

I will just begin my contribution by reminding everyone that smoking is the largest preventable cause of disease and death in Australia, killing 15,000 people a year and contributing 7.8 per cent to the total Australian burden of disease. Tobacco smoking affects people of all ages. Tobacco use increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease, several cancers and diabetes. Smoking during pregnancy, as we heard from Senator Polley, increases the risk of low birth weight in babies. Passive smoking also has its risks. Exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to serious harm, causing lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Passive smoking can also increase the risk of onset asthma in children and sudden infant death syndrome.

From a personal point of view, I have a passionate need to support this bill and see it pass through this chamber this evening. My father died in 2008 of mouth cancer as a result of a lifelong addiction to cigarette smoking. I think anyone who has nursed a family member through such a debilitating and destructive disease that leads to the end of their life will put their hands up very readily to support legislation such as this. As an asthmatic I am also very conscious of the effect that passive smoking has on one's ability to breathe freely in this country and that is another reason I am so supportive of this legislation.

Tobacco use also places a huge financial strain on the health sector as well as the broader community. As far back as 1998 and 1999 it was estimated that the costs attributable to tobacco in Australia were over $109 million. That includes medical, hospital, nursing home and pharmaceutical costs. It is now estimated to cost our economy $31.5 billion. Despite all this, and despite all of our efforts, there are still three million Australians who continue to smoke.

In my own electorate of the Northern Territory the situation is even more dire. The rate of smoking in the Northern Territory is the highest in the country. Smoking prevalence data from 2007 reports that one-quarter of non-Indigenous adults in the Northern Territory aged 14 and over smoke tobacco on a daily basis.

Debate interrupted.