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Thursday, 28 July 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - This item calls for special comment. It is proposed to make a very respectable increase in the duty on cigarettes; but I am somewhat surprised that Senator Pratten does not try to induce the Government to " go one better " with some extra duty.

Senator de Largie - You mean the Excise?

Senator LYNCH - I mean both duties. It is well within the knowledge of us all that the use of cigarettes by the youth of this country is a dangerous development. We have only to look around when we walk abroad in any of our thoroughfares to see boys of nine or ten, or even younger, 'investing in cigarettes the moment they can scrape a few coppers together. This practice of smoking, of course, stunts their growth, and makes it impossible for them to grow up to be proper men. In my opinion,the time has come when we should take the lesson to heart, and, if we cannot stop this practice on the part of these youngsters, at least make it as difficult as possible.

Senator de Largie - That would mean a tax on the lady smokers as well I

Senator LYNCH - My sympathy for women smokers is very scanty. Whenever I see one smoking, I think she has deserted her womanly instincts. I can understand the old women in Ireland,, and, I suppose, elsewhere in the British Isles, in the olden days resorting to the " dudeen " in order to satisfy a physical necessity, and as a positive comfort; but when I see, on steamers and in other public places, pasty-faced women smoking cigarettes, I really think that - well, I shall say no more. It is conceded by our medical faculty, and confirmed by our own observation, that cigarette smoking, particularly amongst the young, has farreaching and damaging effects, and my desire is to do everything possible to prevent it. According to the scanty information supplied to us by the Government, it appears that tobacco, unmanufactured, in the 1908-11 Tariff, was subject to a duty of 3s. 6d., which in 1914 was increased to 4s. 8d., and, by the Tariff before us, to 5s. 4d. The Excise duty for the corresponding thirteen years was1s. in 1908-11,1s. 8d. in 1914, and, under the present Tariff, 2s. 4d. The net protection to the manufacturers of this tobacco was 2s. 6d. in 1908-11 ; 3s. in 1914,. and 3s. under the present Tariff, showing an inclination on. the part, of the Government to increase; that protection , by only 6d. over that period. That is to say, as the; import, duty kept increasing, so did the- Excise: duty. In the case of cigarettes, theuse of which I wish to remorselessly put down, the duty in 1908 was 6s. 6d.; in 1914 it was 10s. 6d.; and, under the present Tariff, it is11s. 6d. and 12s.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Senator LYNCH - I was. directing, attention- to what I. conceived to be the injurious effects of cigarette smoking, particularly among the. youths of the community, and, if the. statements of some honorable senators are correct, also among certain adults of both, sexes. I desire to emphasize the fact that unless those who have the welfare of the. youths of this- country at heart unite in- an endeavour, to prevent, young people being supplied with cigarettes, little good will result. There is hardly an honorable senator who has not seen at some time or other, particularly in. our public thoroughfares and reserves where youngsters congregate, young people smoking cigarettes: Although we. cannot absolutely prohibit the use of cigarettes,, it is our duty, as senators charged with the framing of legislation, to make it as difficult as possible for young, people to obtain, them, in the hope that they may be gradually weaned from an injurious habit. I have already said that during the- last thirteen- years no special effort has been made -by Parliament to- discourage their use.

Senator Wilson - Would it not be better to make it illegal for any one to sell them to a person under age ?

Senator LYNCH - There are many remedies that might be suggested; but this is the opportunity' for us to do something on our own account ; and, although my proposition might not be entirely effective, it is a remedy on the principle that when- an article is difficult to obtain it is somewhat sparingly used. I desire- by means of the Tariff to make the price of cigarettes so high that youngsters will be compelled, if they consume them at all, to use them in limited quantities. While we should have a jealous, regard for our responsibilities as senators, that responsibility is reinforced when our action can to a. great extent alter and improve the habits of our young people. I submit that this remedy might not be altogether effective, but it would make cigarettes so expensive . that, consumers would have to curtail the practice and alter their tastes, which would have a corresponding effect upon the health and stamina of our young men and women.

Senator Payne - Will it not be necessary for the honorable senator to submit a request, concerning a previous item?

Senator LYNCH - Perhaps so. This commodity has received very little consideration, as is shown by the fact that since the period 1908-1911. to the introduction of this Tariff the increase in the protection given in the case of cigarettes has been 9d., whereas in the case of tobacco, it has been 6d. perlb. The difference between the import duty and Excise duty constitutes the. protection given to the manufacturers, and the encouragement or discouragement in the use of this commodity as far as theFederal Parliament is concerned has remained neutral.

Senator Wilson - Does, the honorable senator think that Parliament has remained neutral when a duty of11s. 6d. per lb. is imposed?

Senator LYNCH - Yes, in view of the increases- that have' been made in other directions. During the afternoon the Committee has been discussing the duties on ales, spirits, and beverages, and, as a result of a request submitted by Senator Guthrie, the House of Representatives is to be asked to increase the duties by 200 per cent. If we go back to- the period 1908-1911, and. institute a comparison with the dutiesprevailing at that time, there is an increase on those articles of 600 per cent; These increased duties have been suggested for the special purpose . of encouraging the production of beer and ale in this country.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, in order to keep out the German product.

Senator LYNCH - Will not. that have the effect of increasing the production in this country?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It may increase British production.

Senator LYNCH - A new construction has now been placed upon the action of the Committee. I thought it was for encouraging the production of those liquors in the Commonwealth.

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