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Wednesday, 19 April 1972
Page: 1210

Senator DONALD CAMERON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Has the Minister for Health read in today's Press that an eminent scientist has stated that cigarette smoking as practised in Australia is responsible for between 95 and 98 per cent of primary lung cancer? As Australian cigarette consumption per capita has nearly doubled in the last IS years, will the Minister recommend a control of cigarette promotion by making it compulsory for all cigarette packets to carry a warning label and record of the tar and nicotine content?


I did see part of the statement to which the honourable senator refers. Without necessarily agreeing with the totality of the judgment made, I should say that this is a world health problem. I believe it is accepted the world over, by the World Health Organisation and by people in the hierarchy of medicine, that there is a distinct causal link between lung cancer and cigarette smoking. The percentage of lung cancer cases attributed to cigarette smoking is a matter which could be debated. It is difficult to resolve this question because medical opinion varies in relation to the degree of this link. Recently I saw a movie in which some American professors of medicine said that the link did nol exist, but I think general world belief is that there is a link.

That brings me to the second part of the honourable senator's question. As honourable senators know, certain States of the Commonwealth have passed legislation to require health warning labels on cigarette packets. Victoria recently passed a Bill for this purpose and I understand that it will come into effect on 1st January next year. South Australia has passed legislation which has not been gazetted because it has not received the Royal assent. I believe the Victorian legislation was passed on the understanding that when a certain number of the other States passed like legislation, that State would then give effect to its legislation. I am led to believe also from information provided to me that other States are currently examining this question, particularly as it relates to the labelling of cigarette packets.

The Commonwealth is concerned with the position in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Under our Constitution, to the extent that this matter involves the States it is in the hands of the sovereign States. The Commonwealth's attitude has been that if the States passed legislation the Commonwealth would come into line with it. The fact is that the matter is currently under examination at the Commonwealth level. The legislation in Victoria sets down certain requirements. If there is to be labelling of cigarettes in Australia it would be most desirable that it be uniform. Let us face it: This is an Australian industry and there would have to be one form of labelling; otherwise there would be one system in Victoria, another in Tasmania, another in South Australia and there could be a different one in New South Wales if an executive decision in this respect is taken. I have the matter under examination currently. The Government also at this time has under examination the implications of the recent decisions taken in States as they affect the Commonwealth.

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