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Wednesday, 31 March 1965

Senator MCKELLAR (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) - In answering the question which the honorable senator asked of him on 30th September 1964, the previous Minister for Health, the late Senator Wade, mentioned that there are seven components of tobacco smoke which are capable of inducing cancer. These components are called polycyclic compounds, and vary in their propensity for promoting cancer. The Minister also mentioned that the concentrations of the polycyclic hydrocarbons may vary according to the method used in curing and ageing the tobacco and, further that it was possible that certain tobaccos may be less carcinogenic than others due to factors such as the nature of the soil in which the plant was grown, the type of plant, and so on. However, it is thought that any variations in this regard would be minor rather than substantial.

In answer to the honorable senator's new question, I know of no research being carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Health, or any other Commonwealth Department or instrumentality, with a view to obtaining a tobacco free of carcinogenic components. I understand that some of the large manufacturers in America are spending millions of dollars on research. This research has been directed to the objectives mentioned by the honorable senator as well as to exploring the possibility of discovering some satisfactory substitute for tobacco. It would appear that no suitable substitute for tobacco has been found up to the present time. Also, as far as I am aware, no method of measurably reducing the carcinogenic components in tobacco has been elicited. The honorable senator will appreciate that research aimed at securing improvements or advantages in the marketing of a product is outside the authority of the Minister for Health, but he may wish to discuss his suggestions with the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O.

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